Nova Scotia is bailing out farmers after an unusual “killer frost” last June that badly damaged crops ranging from wine grapes to berries and Christmas trees.
The record lows arrived in early June, just days after a 28 C high that had set off a growth spurt in a wide variety of crops.
Temperatures plunging to -2 C or worse in some areas hit wine grapes, strawberries, blueberries, apples, cherries and pears, causing an estimated $34.3 million in damage.
It “burned” the tips of many Christmas trees, causing a shortage that choked supply into the northeastern U.S.
“The damage it had done was beyond anything anybody ever expected,” said Grant Hogan, owner of Hogan’s U-Pick Christmas Tree Farm.
“It wasn’t really a frost, it was a freeze. We lost 3 year’s growth on some of my trees, some of the smaller ones it killed.”
On Monday, the Agriculture Department announced a $16.7-million program aimed at helping farmers recover and prepare for the upcoming harvest season.
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“This is very important for our food supply in the province of Nova Scotia. Agriculture is a critical industry to Nova Scotia,” said Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell.
Through the program, farms will receive 50 per cent of the value of their calculated production loss, but there is some concern about how the aid is being rolled out.
Tim Marsh with the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture says they were surprised at how long it took for the province to step in and is concerned that farmers have only three weeks to apply.
“To know what their losses truly are, some of those calculations are going to require a bit of time,” he said.
“”We kind of wonder if maybe they should have done a targeted advanced payment to those producers and those commodities that were hurt hardest and then maybe rectify it through the upcoming year,” he said, noting that many farmers have been struggling with cash because of the crop damage.
With files from Alicia Draus