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US agriculture secretary visits Oregon, says help is on the way for farmers who lost crops in heat wave

Secretary Tom Vilsack and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown met with farmers affected by the recent heat wave.
Credit: KGW

SALEM, Ore. — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited Oregon Tuesday to meet with farmers impacted by the extreme heat wave that hit Oregon and the Northwest last month. 

"I came here wanting to learn and to listen," said Sec. Vilsack.

Taylor Martin, whose family runs G & C Farms in Salem, said their farm lost 65% of their berry crops, including 1.5 million pounds of blackberries. Oregon is one of the largest producers of blackberries in the country. 

"The heat dome just tanked our berries. Just baked them on the cane," said Martin. "We've never had an event like this."

RELATED: CDC: Heat wave sent thousands to emergency departments across Pacific Northwest

With those kinds of losses for their small 1,000-acre family farm, Martin is looking for help to recoup his losses.

Vilsack said the Biden administration is working on an assistance program to help farmers affected by the heat. He said he hoped the framework of the program would be ready to announce by fall, but didn't have an answer for when farmers might see assistance money paid out. Vilsack said it was clear the USDA needs to assess its disaster assistance programs and figure out what changes can be made to help farmers. 

RELATED: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visits Oregon to promote infrastructure plan

"We're looking at ways in which we talk to the farmers about a whole farm revenue payment to farmers, especially crop growers," said Vilsack.

Vilsack said farmers like Martin would apply for grants. Martin said that money can't come soon enough.

"Our small family farms, we all need it. There's a lot of investment going into this crop before we even harvest it. The risk is there and the money is needed."