Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) introduced the Containing Risk, Offering Protection (CROP) Act which provides the option to purchase insurance to farmers who want to protect themselves from lost crops caused by federal quarantines.
Farmers already face uncertainty due to weather, natural disasters, and unstable market prices -- all of which they can purchase insurance against. But farmers also face uncertainty due to invasive pests that cause the federal government to quarantine their crops, leaving them with no route to recover devastating losses due to the quarantines. Under current law, there is no avenue available for farmers to purchase insurance for losses that result from a federal quarantine.
"Far too often, farmers and ranchers are placed under federal quarantines, destroying a full year of hard work and investment. We need to give our farmers the resources to protect their livelihoods and cover staggering losses due to government-mandated quarantines. No industry can thrive without a level of certainty, and that is what the CROP Act will provide -- a little peace of mind for our farmers," said Rep. McNerney.
In the last four years, more than 140 federal quarantine zones were established across America, costing farmers millions of dollars in lost revenue. In California alone, there were more than 25 quarantines, with three in San Joaquin County. In September of 2011, a federal quarantine in the Stockton area cost farmers over $1 million dollars.
The CROP Act, H.R. 1319, directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a better support system for farmers in quarantine zones. The bill gives authority to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help provide insurance to farmers interested in protecting against the risk of crop losses due to federal quarantines that affect farmers' ability to grow, harvest and sell their crops. Currently, there is no way for growers to mitigate losses incurred due to federal quarantines.
"For farmers in San Joaquin and Contra Costa Counties, losing a year's harvest is devastating. In these tough economic times, farmers need to be able to deal with the challenges that come their way," said Rep. McNerney. "A strong farming community is essential, especially in our region. Our farmers produce some of America's most vital specialty crops and are a key component of our region's economic stability."
The CROP Act is cosponsored by Reps. Jim Costa, Gloria Negrete McLeod, and Juan Vargas, who joined McNerney in standing up for the farmers of the region. It is also endorsed by the California Farm Bureau, Western Growers, California Apple Commission, California Blueberry Commission, California Grape and Tree Fruit League, and California Citrus Mutual.
"Today Congressman McNerney is putting forward a bill designed to deal with one of the critical threats facing fruit and vegetable farmers today: the risk of quarantine, which can cripple family businesses that have taken decades to build. Congressman McNerney's bill is designed to ensure that the public-private partnership that forms the basis of crop insurance recognizes this risk and allows producers to insure against it. Our members are increasingly thinking about crop insurance as a risk management tool but we want to make sure these tools are relevant for our industry and the risks we face. Under the current crop insurance statute, when quarantine is placed on a growing region by a government agency in order to control pest and disease those events are generally not insurable. We are grateful to Representative McNerney for introducing this much-needed legislation that would rectify this failing in the current statue and if adopted ensure that an adequate crop insurance product be readily available." - Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers
"We believe this legislation is necessary to bring the USDA Risk Management Agency and the specialty crop industry closer together to better protect fresh fruits and vegetables from the economic devastation occurring as a result of invasive pests & diseases, which leads to quarantines and economic fallout therein." --Joel Nelson, President, California Citrus Mutual