Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, recently announced that Michigan tart cherry growers will now have federal crop insurance available to them for the first time ever. The new insurance program comes following Sen. Stabenow's call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to give cherry growers access to insurance like other crop growers get across the country. Early freezes and frosts in 2012 decimated orchards, vineyards and fields across the state, destroying 97% of Michigan's cherry crop, underscoring the need to have protections in place to prevent farmers from being wiped out by disasters. The new insurance coverage will protect growers against such losses and continue strengthening Michigan agriculture, which supports nearly one out of four jobs in Michigan and is helping to drive the state's economic recovery.
"No farmer should be wiped out because of a few bad days of weather, and this new coverage will help Michigan's growers manage their losses without losing the farm," Stabenow says. "Michigan cherry growers will now be able to purchase crop insurance to protect themselves from disasters like last year's freezes and frosts. This is another reason why it's critical that Congress finally complete its work on a Farm Bill, which would provide short-term disaster relief for those that were devastated last year and ensure that more Michigan growers can protect themselves from risks like these in the future."
"There's no question Michigan cherry growers have seen their share of losses over the last couple of years, with many losing over 90 percent of their crop," says Phil Korson, president of the Cherry Marketing Institute. "Better crop insurance options are needed to help families and farming communities get through tough times and better protect our growers so ad-hoc disaster relief isn't needed in future years. Senator Stabenow has led the charge in assuring our growers have access to insurance options like other crops do and we appreciate her tenacious leadership on this issue."
Last August, Stabenow announced similar coverage for Michigan's sweet cherry growers who also suffered losses from the spring freezes and frosts. Stabenow continued pressing USDA to develop coverage options for tart cherry growers as well.
The tart cherry coverage protects growers against losses from low yields, low prices, low quality, or any combination of these events. The coverage is scheduled to be available for the 2014 crop year in the following counties: Berrien, Van Buren, Allegan, Kent, Newaygo, Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Manistee, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim, Charlevoix.
Senator Stabenow worked with USDA to secure disaster relief in the way of low-interest loans for farmers across Michigan last year. And Sen. Stabenow's Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, also known as the Farm Bill, includes a provision to make sure further disaster assistance is available this year for Michigan fruit growers who did not have adequate access to crop insurance.
The Farm Bill also strengthens crop insurance to better protect farmers, including fruit growers, from weather disaster in future years. Stabenow's Farm Bill requires USDA to develop effective crop insurance for all fruit and vegetable growers, and today's announcement means that work will begin for cherry growers even before the Farm Bill passes.
The Farm Bill passed the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote of 66-27 in June. The Senate has appointed conferees to negotiate a final Farm Bill with the House, but the House has not yet done the same.
Additional information on the new insurance options will be available early this fall in advance of the expected sales closing date of November 20.