Proos applauds governor for asking for federal disaster aid and Senate approves fruit crop disaster area resolution

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LANSING – Sen. John Proos announced Friday that the Michigan Senate has approved a resolution urging President Barack Obama and the U.S. Agriculture secretary to declare Southwest Michigan and all of Michigan’s fruit-growing regions disaster areas in the wake of weather conditions that devastated fruit crops, particularly grape production.

A frost in early April destroyed tens of thousands of acres of Southwest Michigan grapes, peaches and blueberries, including more than 95 percent of the region’s total grape crop. As a result, it is projected that grape farmers will lose more than $18 million for the 2012 season, peach farmers will lose $14 million and blueberry farmers will take a hit of about $15 million.

“Our farmers are a vital component to the Southwest Michigan economy and way of life, and I will continue to work to help our local farmers recover from this natural disaster,” Proos said. “I also want to thank Governor Snyder for standing up for our local farmers by asking the federal government to begin the process of providing disaster assistance.”

Gov. Rick Snyder also announced Friday that he has requested federal disaster assistance from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for the farmers in Michigan counties who are facing substantial crop losses due to extreme weather conditions.

Proos said: “It has been projected that Michigan fruit farmers will suffer a total loss of about $223.5 million. Additionally, they still have to spend money to maintain their vines this summer or risk losing next year’s crop as well. Fruit crops usually bring in more than $350 million annually in Michigan and represent a livelihood for thousands of families and workers.

“Senate approval of the resolution imploring the president to act is a step toward helping all affected farmers financially recover. Declaring Southwest Michigan and the rest of the state’s fruit-growing regions a disaster area is not a bailout, but will allow our hard-hit growers access to low-interest loans and other federal assistance.”

Proos made the announcement during an agribusiness roundtable discussion on Friday morning held at the Berrien County Michigan Works! Service Center in Benton Harbor. The roundtable included area agribusiness industry leaders and local officials discussing the overall status of the agriculture industry in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

“Southwest Michigan’s agriculture community produces a wide variety of goods, from wine to household cleaners,” Proos said. “It is always good and informative to hear from business leaders about the challenges they face and the opportunities they see ahead.”

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Audio comments by Sen. Proos are available on the senator’s webpage at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Podcasts.” 

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