Coverage expanded for fruit, vegetable and specialty crop growers

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced this month that greater protection is now available from the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that traditionally have been ineligible for federal crop insurance. The new options, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup and bioenergy crops.

Previously, the assistance program, administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price.

The expanded protection is designed to be especially helpful to beginning and traditionally underserved producers, as well as farmers with limited resources, who will receive fee waivers and premium reductions for expanded coverage. More crops are now eligible for the program, including expanded aquaculture production practices, and sweet and biomass sorghum. For the first time, a range of crops used to produce bioenergy will also be eligible. 

USDA, in partnership with Michigan State University and the University of Illinois, created an online resource on the FSA website (fsa.usda.gov/nap) that enables producers to determine whether their crops are eligible for coverage. It also gives them an opportunity to explore a variety of options and levels to determine the best protection level for their operation.

If the application deadline for an eligible crop has already passed, producers will have until Jan. 14, 2015, to choose expanded coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. To learn more, visit the FSA website or contact your local FSA office (go to offices.usda.gov). The FSA also wants to hear from producers and other interested stakeholders who may have suggestions or recommendations on the program, says a spokesperson. Written comments will be accepted until Feb. 13, 2015, and can be submitted through regulations.gov.

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