Press Release

Welch Urges USDA Secretary to Help Vermont Farmers Impacted by Natural Disasters, Pushes for Vermont-Focused Farm Bill Priorities 

Feb 29, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing this week, Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.) urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to help Vermont farmers impacted by natural disasters like this summer’s brutal flooding and May freeze. He discussed the need to streamline and expand programs to make crop insurance more responsive to farmers following natural disasters, bolster conservation and climate resiliency funding, make rural renewable energy programming more accessible, and support farmers with more technical assistance in times of disaster. 

“In May we had a freeze that really hurt a lot of our orchardists. And then we had a big flood in July and it wiped out the crops for the specialty crops. It was really tough because under the existing programs, it’s like a vegetable producer had to be able to account for how much spinach, and how much coriander…We’ve introduced the WEATHER Act which is intended to try and make it much more streamlined for some of these small farmers. And by the way—they are small, their incomes are relatively small, but they play a huge role in the local community and keep that land open, so very important to us,” the Senator said

In response to questioning by Senator Welch, Secretary Vilsack agreed that small towns should also be able to more easily access technical assistance programming following natural disasters. 

At the outset of the hearing, Senator Welch expressed Vermonters’ appreciation for USDA’s engagement in Vermont following the frost and flooding this year. 

“We have the best USDA people in Vermont. We’re so grateful for that, so I’m going to accuse you of hiring good people…Sarah Waring, John Roberts, Travis Thomason—and I met with Dr. Basil Gooden, Xochitl Torres Small—my former colleague in the House, she came up, Under Secretary [for Farm Production and Conservation] Robert Bonnie came up after a disaster, Deputy Under Secretary [for Rural Development] Farah Ahmad. It’s been very responsive. It’s been heartening to Vermonters that there’s been such a response from the Department, and I thank you for that,” said Senator Welch. 

Watch Senator Welch’s full remarks here.