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Fruit farmers start filing crop loss claims after cold snap

By Jon Mills/WZZM-TV • May 10, 2017 at 12:00 PM

As if one below-freezing event wasn't bad enough, fruit farmers had to deal with a second consecutive overnight with below-freezing temperatures Tuesday morning.

Some weather stations placed in orchards on the Lakeshore reported it was below freezing for five hours early Tuesday. Those same weather stations reported similar temperatures for a five-hour stretch early Monday, too.

Some blueberry farmers in Muskegon County used ice to protect their bushes from the cold. They turned on in-field sprinkler systems. The water freezes and creates a protective shell that can reduce damage to blueberry flower buds.

"Had one guy say he had one low spot at 20 degrees," said Ryan Fox, a Farm Bureau crop insurance specialist.

Fox started hearing from farmers Sunday evening. The frequency of the phone calls picked up Monday morning.

"I woke up and the text messages were already there, then the phone calls started," he said.

Apple, cherry and peach farmers in West Michigan are likely to have sizable crop loss.

The farmers contacting Fox are ones who last November took out federal crop insurance policies with Farm Bureau Insurance.

"That's when they decide what they are going to insure and how much they are going to insure it for," Fox said.

Many farmers make crop loss claims right after a loss event. In June, Farm Bureau adjusters will make field visits in an effort to determine the exact crop loss on a field by field basis.

"They could lose the entire crop, or a sizable portion of that crop, and that's where we come in to fill in the loss," Fox said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 90 percent of farmers have some amount of crop insurance.

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