The state has requested that the federal government help area vineyards after this fall’s crop freeze, the Colorado Department of Agriculture announced in a Tuesday news release.
Gov. Jared Polis and Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg requested that Sonny Perdue, United States Department of Agriculture secretary, issue a disaster declaration stemming from a massive crop freeze that hit vineyards in Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties from Oct. 25-27.
If Perdue issues a disaster declaration, it would grant access to emergency loans and other funding for the industry as it attempts to grapple with the fallout of the cold weather.
“A disaster declaration is necessary to access critical programs and assistance needed by our producers,” Polis said in the release.
In an early November newsletter, Miranda Ulmer, viticulture extension specialist at the Colorado State University western campus, wrote that there was extensive damage to the vitis vinifera, the common grape vine. For some vineyards, the minimum crop loss from this freeze is 70% and some might have lost their entire crop, the release said.
Submitting a request within three months of the disaster is the first of a multi-step process.
After the request, the Farm Service Agency within the USDA reviews and submits a recommendation on the request at a county level.
Then, the state level of the FSA does the same and passes it along to the national headquarters, which has final say.
“I can’t say how long it usually takes, but the ones I’ve been involved in take several months,” said Jordan Beezley, policy advisor and legislative liaison with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Beezley said that they’re hopeful that the pending change in presidential administrations will not delay the process.
The latest crop freeze is a devastating capstone to a 14-month period that has seen two crop freezes, mass cancellations of festivals, reduced capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic and smoke taint from local wildfires.
“Although this could mean the 2021 harvest will be reduced, our grape growers are coming off several years of record setting crops, which will hopefully carry them through this lean period,” Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, was quoted saying in the news release.