BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) – Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg officially requested a USDA Disaster Declaration for Colorado’s Western Slope after a late-season hard freeze. That freeze came after the peaches that would be harvested in late summer had been planted. It’s estimated the cold weather cost farmers up to 95% of the 2020 peach crop.
The unusually cold weather spanned several days starting on April 13, 2020. Some of the coldest temperatures were measured on the morning of April 14 when Grand Junction fell to 19 degrees. That set a new record for the date. The old record was 21 degrees set in 1933. Temperatures were even colder in many of the surrounding valleys.
“Colorado’s iconic and delicious Palisade peaches could be devastated by this early freeze and fruit producers on the Western Slope need support. Coloradans always look forward to getting Palisade peaches that help support our economy, growers and small businesses,” Polis said. “We urge the federal government to assist Colorado’s agriculture community during this challenging time.”
That disaster money would help producers access critical programs and assistance to help ease the crop losses and harvest reduction. Sen.s Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, along with Rep. Scott Tipton, issued a collective support letter to campaign for the declaration request.
“During an already disruptive time in our economy, additional stresses and disruptions in the food supply cannot be taken lightly,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “While Colorado farmers work to assess the true impact and damage from the freeze, initial reports show that at least half of the produce crop on the Western Slope of Colorado has been lost at the best, and total crop loss is a distinct possibility. We ask for your support of Colorado farmers as they work through the fallout of this weather event, and respectfully urge you to grant the request of Governor Polis to issue a Secretarial Disaster Declaration.”
The Western Slope of Colorado produces 17,000 tons of fruit and brings in nearly $40 million to the local economy. The fruit crop serves as the key economic driver for Mesa, Montrose, Delta, and Montezuma Counties. Peaches account for 75% of the fruit production in Colorado, which also includes crops of pears, apples, apricots, cherries and grapes.