Flooding & Upstate Farmers

Monday, September 12, 2011

Farmers upstate have been devastated by Hurricane Irene – and at a crucial harvest time. We’ll speak with Jacquie Berger, executive director of Just Food as well as Cheryl Rogowski, whose farm has suffered great losses.


Jacquie Berger and Cheryl Rogowski

Comments [8]

Chris Pawelski from Orange County, NY

From the NY Farm Report this week. Thank you Laurie Jean for covering this!

Sep. 13 2011 11:38 AM
Chris Pawelski from Orange County, NY

Here are some links:

Sep. 12 2011 05:34 PM
Chris Pawelski from Orange County, NY

A large part of the responsibility of this disaster is man-made, and lies at the feet of the federal government, for it's total mismanagement of the Wallkill River. This is now the 6th "50 year flood" to take place since 2005. When the Army Corps of Engineers completed the last dredging project on the Wallkill back in 1985 they said it would be a 20 year project and it has flooded extensively since then (twice in 2005, the spring of 2007, the spring of 2010 and now the spring of 2011 and now harvest time 2011). Now granted, it would have flooded with Hurricane Irene but the scope might have been less if the Wallkill had been dug and cleaned and it probably wouldn't had flooded in the spring if it had been cleaned. Back in March it flooded (see: and that flood event delayed me at least weeks planting. If I had planted 3 weeks earlier I would have harvested at least 3 weeks earlier and would have probably harvested 1/2 to 3/4 of my crop. That could be said of most farmers in the black dirt. In the video I even allude to that possibility with the "indirect impact" line. We begged the federal government since 2005 to clean, dig and expand the river and NOTHING has been done. Now we have at least $40 million in cop losses. Personally I am looking at probably $150,000+ in losses and I have no idea what I am going to do or how I'm going to pay them. The Government's lack of action helped create and exacerbate this problem, it should compensate us for that.

Sep. 12 2011 04:17 PM
Chris Pawelski from Orange County, NY

Last year I testified before the U.S Senate Ag Committee in the first hearing on the next Farm Bill on the problems with the federal crop insurance program.

The federal crop insurance program is a joke and pays less than pennies on the dollars on our losses. If we farmers have to depend on standard USDA programs to survive this disaster we are done. How bad is this assistance provided by USDA? For example in 2009 despite having a massive loss, losing well over $115,000 in crop loss (more like $150,000 but I kept my dollar figure conservative in my testimony), and having 70/100 coverage for crop insurance, meaning 70% of my crop was supposed to be covered at 100% of the price, and paying a $10,000 premium and the taxpayer paying $20,000 premium, my indemnity after suffering such a loss was $6,000, I didn't even make back the premium. And my SURE payment for 2009 was $0.

The timing of this flooding couldn't have been worse, taking place at the start of harvest time, where we have put in the bulk of our expenses, roughly 90 to 95%, while roughly only harvesting at most 10% to 20% of our crops. Production to count is the facet of the crop insurance policy where they subtract from your indemnity whatever you harvested and sold. So, that includes prior to the hurricane and flood. For example, three weeks prior my father and brother harvested 10 acres of transplant onions and those onions, deemed "production to count," will be subtracted and counted against whatever they may lose because of the flood. To make a comparative analogy to establish the absurdity of this facet of the crop insurance policy, imagine a hardware store whose inventory is wiped out by the flood, and an insurance adjuster upon inspection tells the owner "I'm sorry but I can't count 1/3rd of your lost inventory because I have to subtract against your claim the inventory you sold three weeks ago." In any other case you would call that insurance fraud but that's how the federal crop insurance program works, or doesn't work. Further, our region has suffered previous weather disasters, lowering our actual production histories (aphs) (, reducing severely the value of our crop insurance policies, making us even more vulnerable to economic collapse. Hence, the need for a unique, special circumstance program. Regarding the SURE program (, SURE applications for 2011 crop losses would not even be taken until the fall of 2012, which means the payments will probably not even be made until the early part of 2013. And since it is based on the federal crop insurance program it's payment level will only match what the crop insurance payments will be.

Sep. 12 2011 04:11 PM
Chris Pawelski from Orange County, NY

I'm a farmer in the 19th district. My wife and I have worked on public policy issues for about 15 years including dealing with a number of weather disasters. This is by far the worst weather event we have ever faced. Here is a story that ran on the WABC station in NYC on 9/1/1:

As I said my wife and I have worked on public policy issues for 15 years and have dealt with elected officials and government agencies on the local state and federal level, and with both political parties. We have had great relationships with officials on both sides of the aisle because ag is usually a very bipartisan issue.

I can say with all honestly that "Hurricane Hayworth" is the worst elected official I have ever dealt with. She is terrible. This storm is the worst storm to ever impact my farming region. It is devasting. It may put virtually every farmer out of business. It has struck at the absolute worst time. It has hit us when we have spent 90 -95% of our expenses in and we grow very expensive crops. It costs between $3,000 to $5,000 to grow one acre of onions. And currently crops are not covered by FEMA aid. We are only covered by USDA aid, which sucks. See my Senate testimony to understand how badly it sucks. And vegetable farmers qualify very few other USDA aid. See this video for more details:

Hayworth on the day the Times Herald-Record piece ran put a statement on her Facebook page where she again repeated her full support of Cantor's heinous and despicable position. The waters had not even begun to reced on our fields and farms and she backed his position. I have been involved in weather disaster issues for 15 years and have been going down to the Hill for 13 and disasters have virtually always been considered emergencies and EMERGENCY SPENDING ALWAYS EQUALED NO OFFSETS. There were only a literal handful of exceptions over the last 15 years. Since the Record piece Hayworth has taken heat and is now trying spin that she someone supports FEMA aid to come but she is not repudiating Cantor's position. She is somehow tweaking it but she is still backing it. She is disgusting.

I am fighting to save my valley and she is killing us. In most cases the first place you go is to your Congressional Office but not only is she worthless she is doing damage. Thank God Senators Schumer and Gillibrand as well as Rep. Hinchey are so keyed and focused on agriculture because if they weren't we would be screwed. Their local offices and DC offices have called me and been in constant contact since Monday. They are totally committed to doing everything in their power to save us. No thanks to "Hurricane Hayworth."

Sorry for the rant. That's what's happening here on the ground. Here is a link to a blog run by Gov. Cuomo's Executive Chef that is all about our farming region you might find of interest:

Sep. 12 2011 04:08 PM
LF from Warwick,NY

Everyone should know that this area and Pine Island farmers overwhelmingly are Republican voters and elected Nan Hayworth this year who as part of the Republican program to destroy the government, is into holding up any Federal disaster relief. Hayworth had the two-faced gall to now send around a postcard with the contact info of Federal programs that may be applied to for help...Will these farmers wake up and stop letting ignorance guide their vote?

Sep. 12 2011 03:14 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

do either of your guests believe that farmers affected by the flood might give up their land, and feel forced to sell out to the gas/oil companies trying to drill the marcellus shale formation for methane gas?

also, how can consumers help the farmers recoup their losses?

Sep. 12 2011 12:51 PM
Wayne from Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY

This question is for Cherl & Jacquie.

I'm a chef and entrepreneur starting a new restaurant in Brooklyn. How much of a help or hindrance are financial relationships such as CSAs in helping you survive a disaster like this and head into the next year anew? Also, and I guess its tied to your first answer, would you consider partnering with businesses in a similar way, a flat fee or bargained fee for a year of services and monthly payment, based estimated need? Or have you done that? Yours,
Thinking of alternate ways to keep non-commodity farms thriving in this economy and the future.

Sep. 12 2011 12:00 PM

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