USDA provides greater protection for growers

Published 3:40 pm Saturday, January 3, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast month, the USDA announced the availability of greater protection from the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for crops that traditionally have been ineligible for federal crop insurance.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the new options, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, which provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup and energy crops.

“These new protections will help ensure that farm families growing crops for food, fiber or livestock consumption will be better able to withstand losses due to natural disasters,” Vilsack said. “For years, commodity crop farmers have had the ability to purchase insurance to keep their crops protected, and it only makes sense that fruit and vegetable, and other specialty crop growers, should be able to purchase similar levels of protection. Ensuring these farmers can adequately protect themselves from factors beyond their control is also critical for consumers who enjoy these products and for communities whose economies depend on them.”

Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production, according to Vilsack. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price. The new, expanded protection will be helpful to beginning and traditionally underserved producers, as well as farmers with limited resources, who will receive fee waivers and premium reductions for expanded coverage. More crops are eligible for the program, including expanded aquaculture production practices, and sweet and biomass sorghum, and for the first time, a range of crops used to produce bioenergy will be eligible as well, Vilsack said.

Locally, the Beaufort County USDA Farm Service Agency is gearing up to send out postcards to notify local growers of the option to expand their coverage, said Leigh Anna Hester, executive director of the Beaufort County USDA-FSA. Having recently received training for this new program, the local office thinks it will be appealing to local growers.

“We’ve had the NAP program around, and we’ve had people participate in Beaufort County,” Hester said. “This enhancement will make it a little more attractive to folks. We’re hoping to start seeing if people want to up their coverage. Most people I’ve talked to have said it’s something they definitely want to think about.”

Hester said the new program will provide insurance to those growers that are unable to get federal insurance and who experience damage or loss to their crops due to a natural disaster of some kind, similar to the tornado that hit northeastern Beaufort County and parts of Hyde County in April. Farmers in that region experienced damage and loss due to that tornado. However, the new coverage will not cover loss associated with animals or from other incidents, Hester said.

“Folks sometimes confuse it with production loss from animals like deer eating their crops,” Hester said. “It would only be for natural disasters or excess moisture coming from disease. But we look forward to this year. We hope it’s going to be better, and we hope, with the enhancement, it will be more attractive to folks.”

“If America is to remain food secure and continue exporting food to the world, we need to do everything we can to help new farmers get started and succeed in agriculture,” Vilsack said. “This program will help new and socially disadvantaged farmers affordably manage risk, making farming a much more attractive business proposition.”

To help producers learn more about the NAP program, and how it can help them, USDA partnered with Michigan State University and the University of Illinois to create an online resource, according to Vilsack. The web tool, available at, allows producers to determine whether their crops are eligible for coverage and also gives them an opportunity to explore a variety of options and levels to determine the best protection level for their operation.

Hester said if the application deadline for an eligible crop has already passed, producers will have until Jan. 14 to choose expanded coverage through the program.

To learn more, visit the Farm Service Agency (FSA) website at or contact the Beaufort County USDA-FSA at 252-946-1076.