Tree producers getting disaster relief

Crop farmers aren’t the only agricultural producers who are eligible for agricultural assistance.

Because of the Agricultural Disaster Relief Trust Fund, the 2008 Farm Bill opened the door to possible support not just to crop farmers but also to tree farmers across the country.

Thanks to financing provided by the fund, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) created the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). This program provides financial assistance to those orchard and nursery tree growers that must replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters. To be eligible the damage had to occur on or after Jan. 1, 2008 and before Oct. 1, 2011.

"This program helps our orchardists and nursery tree growers replant and get back on their feet after natural disasters," said Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary.

The tree industry is commonly overlooked. What most people don’t realize is that the fruit and tree-nut industry alone adds an average of $18 billion to the nation’s economy. According to the USDA, the average person consumes about 270.9 pounds of tree-bearing fruit each year.

Recently, the 2008 Farm Bill extended the program to include Christmas tree growers who were previously ineligible under prior legislation.

The Christmas tree industry is larger than most give it credit for. Here are a few facts about Christmas trees that many people do not realize:
  • There are roughly 40 million trees sold during the Christmas season in the United States.
  • There are about 1 million acres in production for growing Christmas trees.
  • The industry is valued at approximately $506 million.
  • Christmas tree growing contributes to the economies of all 50 states.
  • For every tree harvested two to three seedlings are planted in its place.
  • Each acre of trees grown provides daily oxygen for 18 people.
In an executive summary by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Agriculture Disaster Relief Trust Fund was created with the intent to compensate farmers who have experienced weather-related losses.

According to Vilsack, orchardists and nursery tree growers were eligible to start applying for benefits under the TAP in May of this year.

To be eligible for TAP, producers must have suffered more than a 15 percent death loss because of the natural disaster after adjustment for normal mortality. TAP is a cost-reimbursement program, with payments covering up to 70 percent of replant costs and 50 percent of pruning, removal and other salvaging costs for replacing or salvaging damaged trees.

  • Trees, bushes and vines from which an annual crop is produced for commercial purposes
  • Nursery trees include ornamental, fruit, nut and Christmas trees produced for commercial sale
  • Trees used for pulp or timber are ineligible
What are your thoughts about the program? Should the USDA offer more relief programs to other areas of agriculture? Should the program include trees used for timber and pulp?

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