Senators Reverend Warnock, Tillis Introduce Legislation to Support Georgia Specialty Crop Farmers by Strengthening the Federal Safety Net 

Senators Reverend Warnock, Tillis introduced the Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act, which would expand eligibility for the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) and lower the mortality threshold. The legislation would also allow farmers to use TAP funding to replant alternative breeds of trees or bushes

TAP currently does not allow growers to replace destroyed bushes or trees with breed varieties that are more resilient to disease or environmental changes, which may provide higher yields

Senator Reverend Warnock: “This legislation is good for Georgia’s economy and will help make the agriculture sector more resilient to climate change”

Senator Tillis: “This legislation will provide critical assistance to North Carolina’s farmers in the wake of natural disasters, infestations, and disease by enhancing coverage, eligibility, and financial assistance under the Department of Agriculture’s Tree Assistance Program”

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act, which would reform the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), a critical farm safety net program. The legislation would expand eligibility for the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) by lowering the mortality threshold, and allowing farmers to use TAP funding to replant alternative breeds of trees or bushes. In a June Agriculture committee hearing, Senator Warnock questioned witnesses about the limitations of TAP and reaffirmed his commitment to exploring how small, technical changes would help these programs work more efficiently, improve margins for producers, and help them compete with foreign imports. TAP currently does not allow growers to replace destroyed bushes or trees with breed varieties that are more resilient to disease or environmental changes, which may even provide higher yields. The legislation was previously introduced in the House by Representatives Bill Huizenga (R-MI-04) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-19).

“When Georgia specialty crop farmers lose trees or bushes because of a storm or a freeze, it only makes sense they should be able to replant with more resilient breed varieties,” said Senator Reverend Warnock.“This legislation is good for Georgia’s economy and will help make the agriculture sector more resilient to climate change. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort with my friend and fellow Agriculture committee member, Senator Tillis. I’m going to push to make sure this critical legislation is included in this year’s Farm Bill.”

“This legislation will provide critical assistance to North Carolina’s farmers in the wake of natural disasters, infestations, and disease by enhancing coverage, eligibility, and financial assistance under the Department of Agriculture’s Tree Assistance Program,” said Senator Tillis.“Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry, and I am proud to support our hard-working farmers by co-sponsoring this critical legislation.”

“We appreciate Senator Warnock introducing the Protecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act, which will provide Georgia farmers a helping hand when they need it the most—after a natural disaster,” said Tom McCall, President of the Georgia Farm Bureau.“This legislation will make impactful and reasonable changes to the Tree Assistance Program to improve farmer’s flexibility replanting while also reducing regulatory hurdles.”

The importance of the specialty crop safety net programs were brought into focus this year as the state lost over 90% of their peach yield. The Senator is a champion for protecting and increasing the 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 The legislation is endorsed by Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, USApple, Michigan Apple, North American Blueberry Council, Michigan Farm Bureau, American Farm Bureau, Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association, GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Cherry Marketing Institute and Michigan Agri-Business Association. Section by section summary available here and bill text is available here.

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