U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, today announced new crop insurance options for Michigan's cherry growers, many of whom did not have access to federal crop insurance when they faced this spring's freezes and frosts. Currently, growers can only get crop insurance for sweet cherries in Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties. There is no crop insurance presently available for tart cherries. Today's announcement expands crop insurance for sweet cherry growers in Antrim, Benzie, Manistee, Mason, and Oceana counties, and begins the process to develop insurance options for tart cherries.
Chairwoman Stabenow led efforts to press the U.S. Department of Agriculture for these changes to protect Michigan growers from disaster.
"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," said Stabenow. "It is also critical that Congress complete work on our bipartisan Farm Bill to help provide short-term disaster relief and help Michigan growers protect themselves from these risks in the future. The expansion of crop insurance is welcome news for Michigan's cherry growers who have not had the option of purchasing crop insurance to protect themselves from disasters like this year's freezes and frosts."
"There's no question it's been a tough season for cherry growers, with many losing over 90 percent of their crop," said Phil Korson, President of the Cherry Marketing Institute. "Short-term assistance is needed to help families and farming communities get through the year, and better crop insurance options will help protect our growers so ad-hoc disaster relief isn't needed in future years. Senator Stabenow understands the need for that two-pronged approach and we appreciate her tenacious leadership on both fronts."
Senator Stabenow worked with USDA to secure disaster relief in the way of low-interest loans for farmers across Michigan earlier this 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 64-35 in June.
The House has yet to bring the Farm Bill to the floor for a vote. If the House does not pass a Farm Bill by the September 30th deadline, America will revert to 1940s agriculture policy, creating extraordinary uncertainty throughout the country's agriculture economy.
National media outlets have said Stabenow's Farm Bill represents the most significant reform to American agriculture in decades. In addition to disaster relief and initiatives to help Michigan farmers and agriculture businesses create jobs, the bill cuts over $23 billion in spending by ending unnecessary subsidies like direct payments to farmers for crops they don't grow, and consolidating and streamlining programs to end duplication. The Washington Post said the bill "enjoys rare bipartisan support and could be the only significant piece of deficit-reduction legislation to gain congressional approval this year."