Sen. Clinton, Bipartisan Coalition Ask USDA to Improve Apple Crop Insurance

New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has joined with her Senate colleagues in a bipartisan campaign to improve crop insurance coverage for all apple growers in New York and across the country.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Senator Clinton and her colleagues urged the USDA’s Risk Management Agency to amend its proposed apple crop insurance policy to allow growers to take out separate insurance policies on their orchards.

According to the Senators, the present proposal could leave growers at risk of losing substantial amounts of money if their crops are damaged because they cannot take out individual insurance policies that are appropriate for the different types of apples they grow.

“As apple growers across New York continue to struggle to maintain their orchards and provide for their families, we need to ensure that we give them an adequate safety net for when times are tough,” Senator Clinton said. “Crop insurance is a valuable tool in helping growers protect their livelihoods in the face of unpredictable weather and volatile markets, but it must be effective for everyone.

“New York’s Apple growers deserve insurance coverage that reflects their business needs. Bottom line, the current policy is inappropriate and it puts our apple growers at risk of significant financial losses. We must develop a policy in time for next year’s crop that would be available to all apple growers, to cover all their produce and all the risks that they take,” Senator Clinton said.

The main concern held by the Senators is that the current policy does not address what is known as the “discernable divide”. The policy as drafted does not include the option for discernable breaks to be used to subdivide an orchard into more manageable, insurable units.

For example, under the current policy, if an orchard grower has young apple trees on one side of a road and older, more mature trees on the other, the damage done to the younger more fragile trees might not be covered. This reportedly discourages investment into new trees while it forces growers to take out more insurance than is necessary, thereby eroding profit margins.

The Senators believe that the policy should allow growers to use public right-of-ways, roads, irrigation canals, or other permanent features to establish reasonably sized orchard units, which would result in more reasonable treatment of weather-related claims. For all other record keeping purposes, many growers already use such breaks to divide their orchards for things like spraying, USDA worker protection requirements, volume and quality of apples, planting patterns and varieties used.

Additionally, Senator Clinton and her colleagues are urging the USDA’s Risk Management Agency to add optional coverage for U.S. No 1 Fresh and U.S. Extra Fancy grades to the apple crop insurance policy as soon as possible. While the proposed policy would provide coverage at the U.S. Fancy grade level, allowing growers to insure at the U.S. 1 Fresh and U.S. Extra Fancy grades would reportedly provide additional options and flexibility when making risk management decisions.

Last year Senator Clinton and her colleagues wrote the USDA requesting improvements to the federal crop insurance coverage available for fresh and processing apples. The letter urged the USDA to include options to upgrade coverage from the cider grade and to provide adequate coverage against realistic market quality defect standards and weather related perils.

Many of the apple industry’s requested changes were incorporated into the proposal released last month. This second bipartisan letter encourages the addition of the “discernable divide” option and coverage for U.S. No 1 Fresh and U.S. Extra Fancy grades.