Oct 18, 2004
Improved Crop Insurance Program Available to Apple Growers

Growers will have the opportunity to insure 2005 crop apples under a new, improved crop insurance policy, but it is important that decisions are made quickly as the sign up deadline is Nov. 20. The new provisions, the result of a joint effort by the U.S. Apple Association (USApple) and the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA), will give growers access to better risk management options.

The apple-crop insurance policy will now cover all major weather-related risks. Apple growers will be protected from common perils without having to select additional optional coverage.

The new provisions allow claims for apples failing to meet U.S. No. 1 Processing grade instead of U.S. cider grade. Without this change, growers with the basic policy wouldn’t be able to count apples as a loss as long as they were cider grade or better.

But despite these and other improvements in the policy, additional work needs to be done to further improve the policy. From a sales date too close to the end of the harvest to allowing the creation of smaller orchard units and allowing options for additional apple grades, USApple will continue to press for ways to make the policy an even more effective tool.

While it’s an improvement, the revised policy is not fully adequate as a risk management tool for apple growers as long as these additional options are absent.

USApple strongly urged USDA to revise the policy in a way that would allow apple growers to divide their orchards into separate units, using public rights-of-way and other discernible breaks. This move would help growers establish more reasonably-sized orchard units and result in more equitable treatment of weather-related claims. USApple was one of several groups calling for such a change.

This recommendation isn’t part of the final changes to the policy this time, but the door has been left open for adjustments in this area. USDA officials said the change would need to be consistent across all perennial crops. Additionally, RMA is evaluating optional units and what rates would be appropriate. Changes that created smaller units than are allowed now would “not be appropriate” until that evaluation is completed, USDA officials said.

A change in the sale dates is needed as well. It’s important to extend the sales closing to a reasonable time after the apple harvest, The current sales closing date is too close to the harvest.

It’s vital to the success of the industry that USDA continue to work on a way to allow optional coverage for U.S. No. 1 Fresh and U.S. Extra Fancy grades to the apple-crop insurance policy by the 2007 season. USApple urged USDA to make this issue a high priority in its ongoing plans to improve the apple crop insurance policy.

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