Press Release

Welch Meets with Farmers and Rural Business Owners at Roots Farm Market to Discuss ‘WEATHER Act’

Jan 26, 2024

MIDDLESEX, VT – Today, Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, visited the Roots Farm Market in Middlesex to discuss the recently introduced Withstanding Extreme Agricultural Threats by Harvesting Economic Resilience (WEATHER) Act. The WEATHER Act would require USDA to develop an index-based insurance policy that reimburses farmers for crop and income losses after natural disasters. This bill was introduced by Sen. Welch following extreme weather events severely impacting farmers across Vermont. 

Senator Welch was joined by Jon Wagner and Karin Bellemare, owners of Bear Roots Farm and Roots Farm Market; Justin Rich of Burnt Rock Farm, President of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association; Grace Oedel, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont; and Representatives from the Office of Sen. Sanders. 

“From the brutal May frost to the catastrophic July flooding, extreme weather events of the past year demonstrated just how devastating natural disasters can be for our farmers and rural businesses like Roots Farm Market. The WEATHER Act would provide needed reform to crop insurance that better compensates farmers for income losses and is designed to respond quickly to a wide variety of harmful weather events, including both drought and excess rain, as well as flooding and high winds. As climate change continues to wreak havoc on farms and communities across Vermont, our growers need insurance programs that work for them so they can continue to grow and are more resilient to natural disasters in the future,” said Sen. Welch

In 2022, major weather disasters caused over $21 billion in crop losses nationwide. In Vermont, the May 2023 freeze caused over $10 million in losses. Shortly after, the devastating flooding in July resulted in over $16 million in losses and damages, with impacted farmers and producers reporting 28% of annual income lost following the summer’s severe weather and flooding in an August survey. The WEATHER Act works to better support farmers facing income losses after extreme weather events by instructing USDA to develop an index-based insurance program that will reduce administrative hurdles and ensure insurance payouts are based on agricultural income losses. 

The WEATHER Act was introduced was introduced by Sens. Peter Welch, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).   

“The extreme weather that we are experiencing around the globe – including right here in Vermont – caused by our failure to adequately address the climate crisis means that, at the very least, we must do more to support our farmers from ongoing devastating damage to their livelihood. Not only are crop insurance premiums high and payouts low, but small farms like those in Vermont and across the northeast cannot handle the unreasonable administrative burden and wait times for relief. The WEATHER Act is an important step in ensuring these producers have an insurance option that is tailored to their farm and provides the relief they need, when they need it,” said Sen. Sanders

“Problem solving is nothing new for farmers. We are on the front lines of the climate crisis, and our ultimate goal is to find solutions on how to mitigate damage during these catastrophic events. The WEATHER Act is a good step towards providing farmers with a safety net during a time of extreme weather and to buffer the risk we take as farmers to grow food. Thank you to Senator Welch, Sanders and other parties involved for working on this bill that will help soften the blow and buy us some time to adapt to the next extreme,” said Jon Wagner and Karin Bellemare, owners of Bear Roots Farm and Roots Farm Market. 

“We are deeply grateful for Senators Welch and Sanders championing the need for better insurance programs for small farmers. In a time of increasingly erratic weather, it’s critical we have sensible risk management that supports small farmers no matter the storm. Ensuring small farmers can survive tough seasons makes us all safer, more food secure and climate- resilient. The WEATHER Act is an important step in that direction,” said Grace Oedel, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont

“I am grateful to Senators Welch and Sanders and the co-sponsors of the WEATHER Act who are looking for solutions to financial risk management that better suit the smaller farmers of our region. Specialty crop growers in Vermont need access to real, affordable crop insurance that achieves three goals: streamlined metrics for determining loss, faster payouts for valid claims, and payout values more closely tied to actual farm revenues in our diversified markets. We look forward to the development of new risk management tools that better suit farmers who fall outside the commodity crop framework, and in the WEATHER Act we see real potential to create an improved insurance model for Vermont farmers,” said Justin Rich of Burnt Rock Farm, President of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association.