Senator Reverend Warnock Highlights Importance of Specialty Crop Safety Net Amid 90% Georgia Peach Crop Loss

During a Wednesday Senate Agriculture subcommittee hearing, Senator Reverend Warnock uplifted the struggle of Georgia peach farmers, who have lost 90% of their annual yield because of a mild winter followed by a cold snap

A member of the Senate Agriculture committee, Senator Reverend Warnock highlighted the devastating impact of climate change on specialty crop growers, which creates financial uncertainty that extends to the local economy  

WATCH: Senator Reverend Warnock speaks at Agriculture committee hearing. 

Washington, DC — During a Wednesday hearing of a U.S. Senate Agriculture subcommittee, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) uplifted the plight of specialty crop growers and underlined the importance of supporting federal crop insurance programs authorized through the Farm Bill.

“…Georgia is known as the Peach State, but climate change is threatening to put our state fruit at serious risk. This year, Georgia experienced a very mild winter, and then we got a late freeze, and this combination kind of a one-two punch wreaked havoc on our peaches. And experts from the University of Georgia estimate that 90 percent of Georgia’s peach crop failed, 90 percent,” said Senator Reverend Warnock during his questioning at the hearing.  

Senator Warnock continued to question witnesses about limitations of the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), which does not allow growers to replace destroyed bushes or trees with varieties that are more resilient to disease or environmental changes, which may even provide higher yields. The Senator also reaffirmed his commitment to exploring how small, technical changes like this will help these programs work more efficiently, improve margins for producers, and help them compete with foreign imports.

The importance of specialty crop safety net programs were brought into focus this year as the state lost 90% of their peach yield. The Senator is a champion for protecting and increasing safety net for Georgia specialty crops, which include peaches, pecans, blueberries and more. Last summer, Senator Warnock visited Dickey Farm’s, which harvests peaches and pecans, where he heard directly from farmers about the challenges they face to their bottom lines, including increasingly severe weather.

See below key excerpts from Senator Warnock’s questioning during this week’s Senate Agriculture subcommittee Hearing:

·         Senator Warnock (SW): “We will only see continued climate change. That’s not going away, sadly. And they will continue to cause uncertainty for growers… In 2021, Georgia produced 130 million pounds of peaches valued at $85 million. So when these crops fail at this large of a scale that affects the producer, but we need to remember that the local economy also takes a hit. And so as we reauthorized the Farm Bill, do you or anyone else was on the panel would like to speak to this? Do you agree that our crop insurance programs need to be updated to better reflect the realities of climate change and avoid ad hoc disaster program.”

·         Diana Kobus: “Yes, I think it’s really important to recognize that if we’re not talking about the root causes of climate change, and industrial agriculture being second, as a root cause of climate change, we’re doing a disservice to the discussion here today. So, you know, technology is going to help us continue to adapt. But we can only adapt so far, you know, there’s a thin layer of the atmosphere and a thin layer of the soil that provides life to us humans on the planet. And we really need to engage in the practices to mitigate the effects of industrial agriculture and really transform the food system for all of our benefit.”

·         SW: “So we need to give our growers the tools in order to manage the actual risks that they’re facing, which has implications not only for them, but for our economy.”