Connecticut farmers who suffered crop damage from tropical storm Irene may be one step clpser to potentially getting federal assistance to help cover their losses.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Thursday sent documentation of crop damage to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack along with a letter requesting a secretarial designation. Such a designation would release funds for low interest loans to cover lost crop income. The presidential disaster declaration on Sept. 2 only covers farm losses on property, equipment, structures and certain perennial plants.

Farmers would still have to meet a host of other criteria to qualify for the loans, including how bad their loss was and whether they are credit-worthy enough to receive a traditional loan. A secretarial designation also opens up the possibility of non-loan funds for farmers who have insurance or other protection on all their crops. But many farmers, finding the various forms of coverage too expensive with too little return, often choose limited coverage or no coverage at all.

The formula for a secretarial designation is done by county and requires at least a 30 percent overall crop loss or single major crop loss. Counties adjacent to those counties can also qualify.

Losses for seven counties are being submitted in the request – only Tolland was not listed. The losses are as of Sept. 14, but final figures will not be available until the end of harvest season.

Fairfield:  Sugar pumpkins, 56% loss

Hartford:  Beans, 63% loss

Litchfield:  Yellow corn, 35% loss; sugar pumpkins, 43% loss

Middlesex:  Green beans, 93% loss

New Haven:  Summer squash, 49% loss

New London:  Sweet corn, 52% loss

Windham:  Yellow corn, 38% loss; apples, 48% loss

Jan Ellen is CT Mirror's regular freelance Environment and Energy Reporter. As a freelance reporter, her stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yale Climate Connections, and elsewhere. She is a former editor at The Hartford Courant, where she handled national politics including coverage of the controversial 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. She was an editor at the Gazette in Colorado Springs and spent more than 20 years as a TV and radio producer at CBS News and CNN in New York and in the Boston broadcast market. In 2013 she was the recipient of a Knight Journalism Fellowship at MIT on energy and climate. She graduated from the University of Michigan and attended Boston University’s graduate film program.

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