Congress has passed legislation that includes disaster aid to fund recovery efforts from Tropical Storm Irene, but some area farmers are still waiting for help.
Both the U.S. House and Senate passed an appropriations bill Thursday night that allocates nearly $40 million to businesses and farms in New York state devastated by flooding Aug. 28.
Sen. Charles Schumer said in a press release the funding will keep businesses in New York and continue to help farmers rebuild and recover. His colleague, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, said farms suffered historic damage.
Lake Placid’s Snowslip Farm, owned by John and Lesley Trevor, was among many area farms that incurred severe damage during Tropical Storm Irene. Many of those farms are still waiting for federal aid.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
"When our farm families suffer, our whole state and whole economy suffers," Gillibrand said.
Rob Hastings of Rivermede Farm in Keene Valley told the Enterprise he hasn't received any state or federal aid yet.
"I haven't really applied," he said. "Every time I do talk to somebody, they say we don't qualify."
Hastings said from his perspective, the bigger farms are getting assistance, not the smaller, more diverse ones like his. He said his farm has been rebuilding independently, with help from the community.
"We've received amazing support," Hastings said. "That's how we're able to do our clean up, is because of the generosity of the community trust and private efforts. It really spoke to me how important the farm is to the community."
Rivermede Farm runs a market on state Route 73 in Keene Valley - the farm itself is about a half-mile away. The farm produces fruit and vegetables, and the market stocks products from many other area farms.
Hastings said flooding from Irene destroyed several greenhouses, while debris has made maple production nearly impossible.
"The debris is up to your chin," he said. "You can't run tubing that way. It looks like a bomb went off down there."
According to Hastings, it's difficult to spend time applying for assistance with winter looming.
"At this point we don't have the time to mess around with this on such a tight timeline," he said. "I need to rebuild. It's not the money that's the issue at the moment, although it will be eventually. Right now it's what can I get done before the snow flies."
Hastings said it can be overwhelming to think about what still needs to be done. He said the last thing he wants to do is play politics.
"If they really want to help us, they'd come out to the farm and say, 'Here you go,'" Hastings said.
Lesley Trevor, who owns Snowslip Farm on River Road in Lake Placid, said her farm hasn't been able to receive any assistance to date either.
This week's bill - the Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Science, Transportation and Housing & Urban Development Appropriations Act - includes funding for emergency conservation, watershed protection, and highway infrastructure. The bill also contains $400 million for Community Development Block Grants and $200 million for economic development initiatives.