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Huizenga, Panetta Introduce Bipartisan Reform to Strengthen Key Specialty Crop Program

Today, Congressman Huizenga (R-MI) and Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced the Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act to reform a vital safety net for specialty crop growers in Southwest Michigan and across the nation. This bipartisan bill enhances the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Tree Assistance Program (TAP), a critical disaster program that provides rehabilitation and replanting financial assistance for tree, bush, and vine growers in the wake of natural disasters, disease, and infestations. Specialty crop growers and consumers across Michigan and around our nation stand to directly benefit from these reforms:

  • Increases access to financial assistance for growers by allowing TAP payments for those who get at least 75% of their income from farming
  • Covers more damage by lowering the plant mortality threshold
  • Institutes greater flexibility for growers to replant their destroyed crops with different varieties, in better locations, or using different stand densities
  • Fixes absurd mandates by allowing growers more than just 1 year to replant a crop if necessary for the plant’s health
  • Expands eligibility for growers of not just “annual” crops, but also “biennial” crops
  • Cuts red tape by ensuring TAP application are answered within 120 days of receipt

“The Tree Assistance Program is a lifeline for growers across the country who make their livelihoods from trees, bushes, and vines,” said Congressman Bill Huizenga. “Whether harvesting blueberries, apples, grapes, cherries, or Christmas trees, growers in Michigan and across the nation can be critically impacted by natural disasters, disease, or infestations. Currently, the Tree Assistance Program does not meet the replanting or rehabilitating needs of family farms and agricultural producers. The bipartisan Protecting America’s Orchardist and Nursery Tree Growers Act answers the call by growers to make this important program more effective, flexible, and easier to use.”

“In the wake of a natural disaster, certain bureaucratic barriers are preventing the Tree Assistance Program from properly serving our orchardists, nursery tree growers, and vintners,” said Congressman Jimmy Panetta. “I’m proud to support bipartisan improvements to this critical program that would increase the support available for growers to rehabilitate damaged trees, bushes, and vines while also cutting unnecessary red tape.  When disaster strikes, producers need to know that the federal government will be an active and effective partner in their recovery.”

You can read the bill here:

Organizations supporting the Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act include

  • Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance
  • US Apple
  • Michigan Apple
  • North American Blueberry Council
  • Michigan Farm Bureau
  • American Farm Bureau
  • Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association
  • GreenStone Farm Credit Services
  • Cherry Marketing Institute and
  • Michigan Agri-Business Association

“The Tree Assistance Program is utilized by blueberry growers across the country who must replant following a natural disaster or pest and disease outbreak. The changes in this bill improve the program by streamlining the application process and allowing growers to re-plant with modern varieties that are more disease and disaster resistant. The North American Blueberry Council applauds representatives Huizenga and Panetta for their leadership on this bill and for their work to ensure important programs like TAP are available to and supportive of growers.” - Kasey Cronquist, President, North American Blueberry Council 

“The Tree Assistance Program (TAP) has become a needed lifeline for apple growers as they face unprecedented weather events. We thank Representatives Huizenga and Panetta for their work to improve the program and make TAP more accessible to growers.” – Jim Bair, President and CEO, U.S. Apple Association.

“As a third generation Michigan blueberry grower, I know firsthand just how important disaster assistance programs like the Tree Assistance Program are for family farmers. This bill will make the program more accessible and user-friendly for growers who have to replant their fields following a natural disaster or a pest and plant disease outbreak. I applaud Representative Huizenga for his leadership in ensuring Farm Bill programs like TAP support growers.” - Shelly Hartmann, True Blue Farms, Grand Junction, Michigan

“The Michigan Apple industry is appreciative of this bill, amending the Agricultural Act of 2014 with respect to the tree assistance program. The steps taken to make the Tree Assistance Program more accessible and usable means growers faced with tree loss can receive assistance for replanting in a more timely and efficient manner. Representatives Huizenga and Panetta acknowledge the many challenges faced by our industry and have worked to address these challenges and support growers in apple-growing regions.” - Diane Smith, Michigan Apple Association

“Michigan’s and America’s nursery and Christmas tree growers have often fallen through holes in the current disaster safety net programs. We appreciate Rep. Huizenga’s leadership toward remedying identified shortcomings in the current programs.” – Amy Upton, Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association.

“The Tree Assistance Program (TAP) is an important risk management tool for specialty crop growers that have experienced loss due to natural disasters. Michigan Farm Bureau applauds Congressman Bill Huizenga and his colleagues for introducing the Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act a bill which makes common sense improvements to TAP so it can be a viable option for more specialty crop growers facing difficult circumstances.” – John Kran, National Legislative Counsel, Michigan Farm Bureau

“Congressman Bill Huizenga understands and appreciates the critical role of specialty crop production in Southwest Michigan and across our entire state,” said Chuck Lippstreu, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. “Congressman Huizenga’s leadership on the bipartisan Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act will benefit Michigan agriculture, helping ensure federal programs work for producers of a wide range of tree and vine crops produced in our state.”

“The Cherry Marketing Institute would like to thank Rep. Huizenga and Rep. Panetta for introducing the Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act. This legislation takes several steps to make the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) more accessible and usable for cherry growers.” – Julie Gordon, President, Cherry Marketing Institute

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