Federal agriculture officials have granted the state’s request for a disaster declaration due to the early hard freeze.

The United States Department of Agriculture has designated 104 Missouri counties as disaster areas, because of the freeze and added the other ten counties as contiguous disaster counties, which extends the declaration to the entire state.

State Agriculture Director Katie Smith is pleased the USDA responded to the state’s request. The disaster declaration qualifies eligible farmers for low-interest federal loans. Also, it could make them eligible for further assistance Congress might grant in the future.

The hard freeze in late March and early April came after a warm period that induced early blooms from apple and peach trees as well as other fruits and vegetables. Missouri’s wine industry has been hit especially hard, with grapes suffering from the cold snap. Smith says losses haven’t turned out to be as bad as first feared. Initial estimates described a near total loss of grapes, apples and peaches. Smith says it appears now that the loss will be 60%. The state will ease the restrictions for designating Missouri wine so that producers can supplement grapes from other states.

Missouri has also requested a federal disaster declaration for areas of the state that suffered flooding this spring, mainly the northwest portion of the state.

Download/listen State Agriculture Director Katie Smith on disasaster delcaration. (:25 MP3)