In The News
Weekly Column: Bipartisan Action to Help SW MI Farmers
Agriculture plays a significant role in our economy at the local, state, and federal levels. I’m excited to share with you new legislation I introduced to strengthen Michigan’s economy while helping local farmers. Along the Lakeshore and across Southwest Michigan, we have the unique ability to grow a variety of specialty crops in addition to more traditional agriculture products. Whether it is apples, blueberries, cherries, grapes, peaches, or even Christmas trees, a natural disaster or infestation can do significant damage to family farms or larger growing operations.
After gathering input from farmers and growers across the 4th District, I introduced the Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act with Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). This bipartisan bill reforms the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s critical Tree Assistance Program, also known as TAP. The purpose of TAP is to provide rehabilitation and replanting financial assistance for tree, bush, and vine growers in the wake of natural disasters, disease, and infestations. Unfortunately, TAP in its current form does not adequately meet the needs of our farmers and growers.
The Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act improves TAP by speeding up approval response times, enhancing replanting options, lowering the plant mortality threshold, and allowing individuals who derive at least 75% of their income from farming to participate in the program. Overall, I believe this bipartisan legislation will make the Tree Assistance Program more effective, flexible, and easier for family farmers to use.
Already this important reform legislation has gained support from agricultural organizations including: the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, Michigan Apple, the North American Blueberry Council, Michigan Farm Bureau, the Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association, GreenStone Farm Credit Services, the Cherry Marketing Institute, and the Michigan Agri-Business Association. I will continue to build bipartisan support for this important reform to strengthen Michigan agriculture.
If you or someone you know needs help navigating a federal agency, please contact my office in Holland at (616) 251-6741, my office in Portage at (269) 569-8595, or my office in Washington at (202) 225-4401. My team and I are here and eager to assist you.