September 6, 2011

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Black dirt farmers say the usual disaster help won’t help, this time

Pawelski, left, Schumer, in a field of rotting squash
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PINE ISAND - “This is the absolute worst disaster to ever hit this valley,” said Chris Pawelski, a third-generation Pine Island onion farmer.  Much of Pawelski’s vast fields were under water for several days, following Tropical Storm Irene nine days ago.  The water finally cleared only on Sunday, a full week after the disaster.

He lost much of this year’s crop.

What farmers have relied on in the past won’t help him, or many of his fellow farmers, Pawelski told U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), who visited his farm Monday.

“Take the crop insurance, there are mechanisms in that program that ay virtually pennies on the dollar for our losses,” Pawelski said.

“Crop insurance program was really designed long ago for the big row crops of the middle west … corn, wheat, rice, cotton.  They don’t help northeast farmers so they don’t usually use crop insurance,” said the senator.

Schumer, accompanied by FEMA Federal Regional Administrator Lynn Canton, said he is pushing for a boost in funding for the federal Disaster Relief Fund so that New York can tap into federal funds to help finance the recovery effort. The senator said the federal government needs to step up and provide funding for recovery efforts, and that he will search high and low for every last dollar of federal aid to help New York rebuild.

 “We need a solution and we need a solution fast, or we’re going to lose very productive, very important businesses here in New York State, not just here in Orange County but elsewhere, too,” he said.

The damage goes beyond catastrophic loss of crops.

Pastor Hugh Farrish, of the Bowen Memorial Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, said he relies on Orange County farmers to feed the needy in his parish.

“There’s another world out there that most of us don’t know anything about. There’s mothers, fathers, sisters and children going to bed at night hungry.”

The USDA has already declared the region eligible for disaster aid because of the flooding and crop damage.


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