West Slope disaster designations aid farmers

Montrose County and five other Western Colorado counties have been declared a federal disaster area after freezing spring temperatures damaged crops.

The designation makes farmers eligible to apply to the Farm Service Agency, an office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for assistance and loans. Farmers should call their local FSA office or visit www.fsa.usda.gov for information.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter announced that Montrose County was declared a disaster area after freezing temperatures during the last week of April claimed nearly all of the sweet cherry crop. Montrose was designated a primary disaster area while Delta, Gunnison, Mesa, Ouray, and San Miguel counties were listed as contiguous disaster counties.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved the disaster designations in response to a request from Ritter.

“I want to thank Agricultural Secretary Vilsack for responding quickly to offer aid to our fruit producers who have suffered financial distress because of severe weather,” Ritter said. “I encourage growers in the affected counties to apply for federal aid to help them recover lost revenue.”

The latest announcement follows a designation earlier this year making Mesa County a primary disaster area after severe cold damaged vineyards between December and February.

It was estimated at that time that at least half of the wine grape crop was damaged during the cold snap.

Delta, Garfield, Gunnison, Montrose and Pitkin counties were listed as contiguous disaster counties in that designation.