A snap freeze in late May killed budding apple blossoms across central and western Maine. Then, to make matters worse, freak hailstorms in July and August damaged what apples survived the freeze. That means that Maine’s apple growers are suffering from their worst harvest in over a decade.
Between severe crop losses and wet weather that kept customers home during the peak fall apple picking season, some local growers are struggling to make ends meet through the winter. Many are counting on federal crop insurance claims to help recoup some of this year’s losses, but mountains of paperwork and potential changes to the way crop insurance policies are structured are giving some growers doubts as to how much they can rely on federal aid.
“This is one of the worst (apple) years for the state of Maine,” said Jeremy Forrett, vice president of Crop Growers LLP, a licensed crop insurance agency operating across the Northeast. “I would say we typically have these types of severe (weather) events about once every 10 years.”
This year, Maine’s apple crop yield was down around 50% from historical averages, according to Renae Moran, a professor of pomology at the University of Maine. Moran said financial losses will exceed 50% because many of the apples that did survive to harvest were blemished by hail and sent to the cider press, which is less profitable.