PR Farm Bureau to farmers: ‘Don’t give up, we’ll get through this’
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
As Tropical Storm Isaias dumped copious amounts of rain on the island early Thursday, Puerto Rico Farm Bureau (PRFB) Programming Director Vanessa Piñeiro Solano called for farmers to fill out a digital form by which the non-governmental organization (NGO) will collect information on how much harm the climatic event did to local agriculture.
The digital form, which is available on PRFB’s Facebook page, asks for essential information, such as name, e-mail address, phone number, city, affected produce, loss of sales value, structural damages, number of workers, if the applicant has insurance with the Agricultural Insurance Corp. and/or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, and more. Piñeiro Solano said that as the island was hit by a storm weaker than a hurricane, the NGO will compile as much information as possible to develop a loss report for state and federal agencies and assist farmers in mitigating damages caused by Isaias.
“This loss inventory will help us determine what happened in each municipality and with each agricultural sector. I’m aware that many farmers have not gotten the opportunity to get back to their farms. Others, due to the rain, have not been able to count their losses because they have many acres of land,” Piñeiro Solano said via Facebook. “When we receive all the inventory, we will be able to hand this information over to different agencies so they are aware of how much this storm harmed us.”
Piñeiro Solano told The Star that although it was too soon to get a complete picture of the amount of damage done by the storm, members of the Puerto Rico Young Farmers and Ranchers, which consists of 100 agriculturists from the ages of 18 to 25, shared pictures of their crops in the aftermath via WhatsApp, which she described as “terrible.”
She added that she feared seeing the aftermath at her banana plantation, Finca Sangre Verde.
“It has been a hard day for us farmers,” Piñeiro Solano said. “It is important for people to acknowledge that, once you’re in this business, it’s a challenge every day.”
Meanwhile, she reiterated her call for farmers to get to the PRFB Facebook page and fill out the digital form. Likewise, she told her colleagues not to give up and to remember the faith and hope that drives them to produce.
“Don’t give up farmers, we’ll get through this. We cut and cut through vines and weeds to move onward,” she said. “Farmers are some of the most faithful and hopeful beings on the planet, as we put any seed in the ground and hope for something to come out of it.”
Agricultural losses reported in southern and eastern PR
Meanwhile, PRFB Executive Director José López told the Star that, at the moment, mostly farmers from Caguas, Utuado, Barranquitas and Adjuntas have reported losses. Others, meanwhile, have reported “great amounts of damage” to their structures.
“As for produce, there have been loss reports on bananas, plantains and vegetables,” López said. “At the same time we have seen hydroponic farmers lose their shading structures, which consist of a semicircular scaffold that provides for controlled planting.”
López also insisted that farmers must document everything they can and take pictures of what they lost, as this provides enough evidence to the local and federal agencies to provide recovery assistance.