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Countywide Focus

U.S. Pays $3.5 Million for Growers' Losses

September 07, 1993|JOANNA M. MILLER

Ventura County growers, whose crop losses totaled $128 million after the three-day deep freeze of Christmas, 1990, have received more than $3.5 million in federal disaster assistance, agriculture officials said Friday.

The funds were earmarked to help offset losses in fruit and other produce in 1990 as well as some subsequent losses, said Frank Van Brocklin, executive director of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, a branch of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

"The freeze not only destroyed the crop that was on the tree at the time, but it also destroyed the bloom which would produce the subsequent year's crop," Van Brocklin said.

Ojai citrus rancher Bob Davis was among about 350 county growers who were paid for losses under the Disaster Assistance Program. Davis, who estimated his losses at more than $100,000 in the first year alone, said he applied for the program with misgivings.

"It's like being paid for an insurance loss without paying a premium," he said. "I don't see why someone in business should be paid for a disaster, even a natural disaster."

Nevertheless, Davis, who received about $50,000, said it was "a big help to various growers."

The program was divided into phases. The first paid growers for crop losses for 1990 and 1991, and the second paid for losses in subsequent years.

"Many growers, particularly avocado growers, had virtually no crop on their trees for two years running," Van Brocklin said.

A second program, the Tree Assistance Program, helped growers replace trees that died in the freeze. It paid out $17,656 in Ventura County, where relatively few trees were killed, Van Brocklin said.

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