Nova Scotia

N.S. bails out farmers reeling from 'killer frost' that crippled crops

The Agriculture Department announced a $16.7-million program aimed at helping farmers recover and prepare for the upcoming harvest season.

Temperatures plunged to -2 C and caused an estimated $34.3M in damage

A late frost in June 2018 caused damage many Nova Scotia crops, including apples, berries, grapes and Christmas trees. (Larry Lutz)

Nova Scotia is bailing out farmers after an unusual "killer frost" last June that badly damaged crops ranging from wine grapes to berries and Christmas trees.

The record lows arrived in early June, just days after a 28 C high that had set off a growth spurt in a wide variety of crops.

Temperatures plunging to -2 C or worse in some areas hit wine grapes, strawberries, blueberries, apples, cherries and pears, causing an estimated $34.3 million in damage.

It "burned" the tips of many Christmas trees, causing a shortage that choked supply into the northeastern U.S.

On Monday, the Agriculture Department announced a $16.7-million program aimed at helping farmers recover and prepare for the upcoming harvest season.

Blueberry farmers in Nova Scotia have suffered through two years of low prices for their crops. Last year's June frost wiped out two thirds of their crop. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Through the program, farms will receive 50 per cent of the value of their calculated production loss.

"Last year's frost event was severe and impacted many farmers and their crops. This investment will provide them with some help financially and will help them purchase some of the supplies and services they need for the upcoming 2019 season," Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell said in a statement.

Such damage had been unseen in Nova Scotia for decades.

Many of the province's roughly 15 vineyards were affected, with harm varying from complete devastation to minimal damage.

The frost prompted the layoff of seasonal farm workers and disrupted growers' expansion plans, according to the province.

"Wild blueberries are one of Nova Scotia's top agricultural exports and our producers suffered a shocking loss of two thirds of their crop in 2018, following very low market prices in recent years," Peter Rideout, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia, said in a statement.

"This funding will help support our producers and the communities that depend on them."

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