A hard freeze hit agriculture very hard and we won’t even know the full extent of the damage for some time.

State Climatologist Pat Guinan has delivered a preliminary assessment. He describes the damage as "unprecedented" and points out he doesn’t use that word often.  But he is using it now to describe the hard freeze in early April that heavily damaged fruit trees that had bloomed early because of unusually warm weather in late March. The freeze also stunted other crops. The loss is estimated to total at least $400 million.

Guinan has been working on the assessment of the April freeze. He hasn’t completed it, but word leaked out. He says the damage occurred during four straight days of well below freezing temperatures that followed on the heels of an extremely warm period. That early warmth brought blossoms out early. The hard freeze nearly wiped out peaches and apples before the fruit appeared. At least half the grape crop has been destroyed. The blueberry, blackberry and strawberry crops have been hurt as well. The freeze might have done further damage. Agriculture officials are watching closely to see if the freeze hurt trees and vines as well as their fruit. They worry that the damage could extend far beyond this year.

The hard freeze set back other crops. Alfalfa and cool-season grasses were hurt. There will likely be a 20-to-30% reduction in winter wheat yields.

State Agriculture Director Katie Smith says the state is in contact with federal officials, attempting to secure more federal disaster aid. The federal government has already included all of Missouri in a disaster declaration from the April freeze. Smith says that could help should Congress authorize more disaster assistance in the future. 

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)