Dear Secretary Veneman:
We are writing to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make improved crop insurance coverage on fresh and processing apples available for the 2004 crop year.
Risk management tools are a critical component of helping farmers protect their livelihoods in the face of unpredictable weather and volatile markets. The crop insurance programs administered through USDA's Risk Management Agency have helped many farmers weather the storms in recent years; however, many specialty crop producers need USDA's assistance to improve the policies available to them. For example, adequate crop insurance coverage is simply not available for producers of high quality, fresh and processed market apples. The present basic insurance policy for apples covers losses only when apples do not meet cider grade standards, and optional buy-up fresh apple coverage does not protect adequately against adverse weather damage. Apple farmers who choose to pursue the higher returns in the fresh fruit and processing markets are unable to insure the crop and their significant investment in production.
We applaud USDA for working with the industry, including the U.S. Apple Association and other regional apple organizations, to hear their risk management needs and address them in an actuarially sound manner. Risk Management Agency staff has been working diligently to draft a policy that would adequately cover all apples. The policy would include options to upgrade coverage from the cider grade as well as cover realistic market quality defect standards and weather related perils. Apple farmers need to have adequate coverage for their business' needs available, even if the higher levels of coverage come at a higher insurance premium.
We understand that changes to the policy need to be in place by August 31, 2003, in order to be in effect for the 2004 apple crop year. We urge USDA to expedite the development and approval of the revised apple insurance coverage by this date so that apple growers across the country have access to adequate risk management tools for the next crop year.
Farmers want insurance coverage that reflects their business needs. They prefer the opportunity to better manage weather-related risk with viable crop insurance. Apple farmers need crop insurance policies that adequately cover the commodity that they produce and the risks that they face for the 2004 crop year and beyond.
We thank you for your timely attention to the concerns of apple farmers across the country regarding their crop insurance needs.
s/ Mike Crapo, Idaho, Larry Craig, Idaho Zell Miller, Georgia
Carl Levin, Michigan Susan Collilns, Maine James Jeffords, Vermont
Patrick Leahy, Vermont Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Olympia Snowe, Maine
Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Charles Schumer, New York Norm Coleman, Minnesota
Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Russell Feingold, Wisconsin
Gordon Smith, Oregon Ron Wyden, Oregon Barbara Boxer, California
Dianne Feinstein, California George Allen, Virginia Patty Murray, Washington
Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Maria Cantwell, Washington John Warner, Virginia
Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts