Northern Michigan Farmers Hurt by 2018 Weather Can Get Federal Aid

Disaster declaration for five counties in northern lower Michigan

After rough weather conditions in 2018 – five counties in northern Michigan have just recently been designated as natural disaster areas by the federal government. The news comes from the US Department of Agriculture and the Farm Service Agency.

At King Orchards in Antrim County, Jack King says they avoided catastrophic losses – but it was still a rough growing season. “We are used to lots of rain, where are used to lots of vibrant healthy growth, and last year it was definitely a little stunted. We had such an extreme drought, it was very hot and dry. And that presents its own set of challenges for growing fruit trees and other specialty crops.”

Using constant irrigation helped at King Orchards. But producers across five counties who weren’t so lucky are not eligible for emergency loans.

Greg Shooks at Shooks Farms says, “Last year‘s drought affected our soybean crop and virtually brought the yields down by 60% in some areas.” Shooks is a fourth generation farmer on a Centennial Farm in Antrim County. Those losses would have impacted farmers starting in late August – after drought conditions, then heavy rains and strong winds.

Shooks says they’ve had to change their business model. “After last year‘s crop we decided to take a different direction and we no longer planted any corn or soybeans or wheat at this particular moment in time.” Now, Shooks Farm focuses on a new winery called Cellar 1914, as well as cherries, strawberries, alfalfa, and small grains. “Last year we were only able to do one cutting of hay for our livestock customers as well as our horse owners, who rely on that for their animals.”

The disaster declaration applies to farms in Antrim, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, and Otsego Counties. Farmers in neighboring counties can also apply for disaster aid. Greg Shooks says he believes that many of them will take the federal government up on their offer. “Those disaster loans are extremely helpful for growers and farmers in the area that have experienced natural disasters and need a little extra help paying bills, replanting seed, or doing future planning for their business.” He adds, “When the FSA offers up disaster loans it is a welcomed thing and it’s good for the growers who are planning on next year so they can hire and they can plant and maintain their business.”

Emergency loans can be used for things like replacing equipment or livestock, reorganizing a farming operation or refinancing debts – in whatever ways the weather did the most damage. Farmers have until February to apply for the Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

For details on the Emergency Declaration and where to go for help,  Click here.