Aug. 18--TRAVERSE CITY -- U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow visited Leelanau County to talk about the pending Farm Bill -- a nearly trillion dollar piece of legislation she said is important to local agriculture because it could give cherry farmers a chance to buy crop insurance.
"Right now, the tart cherry farmers have zero (crop insurance)," Stabenow said on Friday.
It's been a disastrous year for regional cherry farmers due to unpredictable spring weather. Right now, tart cherry farmers are unable to buy into crop insurance backed by the government. The insurance often can cover up to 85 percent of a farmer's losses in bad years. Sweet cherry farmers in northern Michigan, meanwhile, are able to buy crop insurance in just two counties -- Grand Traverse and Leelanau -- as part of a pilot program.
"This bill creates that crop insurance opportunity going forward to cover those losses," Stabenow said.
Nikki Rothwell is the Michigan State University Extension's coordinator at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station, where Stabenow spoke Friday morning. Rothwell agrees broadening federal crop insurance coverage for fruit growers would be a big step forward for area agriculture.
"In a year like this, crop insurance could have really helped our farmers," she said. "It's a risk management tool for them."
Stabenow said the farm bill, as written, would provide more opportunities for block grant funding for fruit growers, and provide broader support for farmers markets and the local food movement by offering assistance to areas seeking to become regional food hubs. The legislation is currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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