Although the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 was finalized in February, additional provisions are just now being announced and implemented. For Michigan orchard owners, changes to USDA’s Tree Assistance Program (TAP) could be significant, according to Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) Horticultural Specialist Kevin Robson.
He said the revisions to TAP include elimination of the annual $125,000 per person and legal entity payment limitation, and also doubles the annual payment acreage limitation from 500 to 1,000 acres.
“These recent changes to the TAP program will give growers another opportunity to utilize programs through USDA to replace trees lost to natural disaster,” Robson said. “This program has historically been used by cherry growers to help cover the loss of young plantings due to winter injury. With our tough winters in Michigan, this is simply another tool for growers to help weather the storm.”
Authorized under the 2014 farm bill as a permanent disaster program, TAP is intended to provide financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters. Robson said.
To qualify for TAP, eligible trees, bushes, and vines must produce an annual crop for commercial purposes, including nursery trees, ornamental shrubs, fruit, nut and Christmas trees produced for commercial sale. Trees used for pulp or timber are not eligible for TAP assistance.
Eligible losses must show more than a 15 percent mortality loss in a stand (adjusted for normal mortality) due to natural disaster, and the loss must not have been preventable through reasonable and available measures. FSA may require information from a qualified expert to determine extent of loss in the case of plant disease or insect infestation.
And finally, producers have to prove ownership of eligible trees, bushes and vines when the natural disaster occurred, even though they are not required to own the land on which eligible trees, bushes and vines were planted when the natural disaster occurred. Producers are required to replace trees, bushes and vines within 12 months from the date the TAP application is approved.
TAP payment calculation is the lesser of 65 percent of the actual cost of replanting, in excess of 15 percent adjusted normal mortality rate, and, where applicable, 50 percent of the actual cost of rehabilitation, or the maximum eligible amount established for the practice by the Farm Service Agency.
Despite past experiences or concerns with TAP, Robson said producers may want to take another look.
“Given these recent changes, I would encourage our state’s growers to reach out to Michigan Farm Bureau, or their local MSU-E support person to learn more about the TAP revisions, and gauge if this program is suitable for their farm,” he said.