Governor Declares Entire State Agricultural Disaster Area

By: Allison Hunt
By: Allison Hunt

Loudon, Loudon County (WVLT) - Quick action from the governor's office may save Tennessee farms millions in losses from the recent freeze which means a possible savings for you at the grocery.

Volunteer TV's Allison Hunt spoke with a local business ravaged by Mother Nature this past week and takes a look at the possible relief.

Governor Bredesen has asked the US Agriculture Department to declare all 95 Tennessee counties as federal agricultural disaster areas.

If approved, this means farmers would be eligible for low-interest emergency loans, which farmers say, would really help them out.

The requested federal loan bail-out would keep Tennessee farms ravaged by Mother Nature's deep freeze last week alive until better days down the road.

"If something's not done, some of these farmers have quite a bit of debt and they're gonna go belly up," says Loudon County UT Agriculture Extension Agent John Goddard.

If the dollars are approved, UT Agriculture Extension Agents like John Goddard will help farmers file applications to determine how much the government can give them. "It won't be near what he's invested in what he's lost, but it will help some."

What it won't help is getting local crops to your area grocery store's produce department. This is where it will probably hit your pocketbook.

"Probably you're gonna have to go somewhere where they're just selling from their farm," says Bill Anderson, produce manger at Fresh Market.

Fruits like strawberries could double in price.

"It's gonna force me to watch what I buy and how much local things I can buy or if I'm gonna be able to buy at all," Anderson says.

Which isn't good news for you in the short term.

"We'll make due some other way I guess," says Tom Reed, Vice President at Tennessee Valley Winery.

Meanwhile, in 26 years of growing grapes, Tom Reed has never seen such devastation to his crop.

"It sets us back 2 or 3 years on most varieties, up to 4 to 5 years on some varieties," says Reed.

Reed says the Tennessee Valley Winery fields could have produced 30 tons of grapes this year. Now, after last weeks freeze, he's looking at none.

"I grew $4500 worth of grapes last year, just off my property, and that's my kids clothes money for school, and it helps pay our taxes, land taxes, property taxes, all that," Reed says.

Reed says the winery tries to stay about 18 months ahead of production, so he doesn't think the cost of wine should increase too much, too soon.


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