TRAVERSE CITY — Northern Michigan fruit growers are praising a decision by federal officials to make crop insurance available to tart cherry growers for the first time.
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced the availability of new crop insurance for tart cherry growers earlier this week. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will manage the insurance program similar to insurance for other crops.
“You’d be crazy not to buy crop insurance because of the vagaries of weather,” said Marc Santucci, a cherry grower who farms the 80-acres Santucci Farm on Mission Peninsula.
Santucci lived through the disastrous 2012 cherry growing season in which freakish spring weather devastated the cherry crop.
“In 2012 our tart cherries were non-existent,” Santucci said. “You could have 10 good years in a row and boom — you get hit by a bad year, so it’s a no-brainer decision,” Santucci said.
Last August, Stabenow announced similar coverage for Michigan’s sweet cherry growers, who also suffered losses from spring freezes and frost in 2012. The weather destroyed 97 percent of Michigan’s cherry crop, making it arguably the worst year on record for cherry growing.
Stabenow said she lobbied the USDA to expand crop insurance programs for tart cherry growers.
“No farmer should be wiped out because of a few bad days of weather, and this new coverage will help Michigan’s growers manage their losses without losing the farm,” Stabenow said in a press release.
The tart cherry coverage protects growers against losses from low yields, low prices and low quality. The coverage is scheduled to be available for the 2014 crop year in 14 northern Michigan counties including Antrim, Leelanau, Grand Traverse and Benzie counties.
Stabenow’s work and the USDA-backed crop insurance was welcomed by Ben LaCross, who represents the Michigan Farm Bureau in the region. LaCross also is a cherry grower.
“We are very excited to have this risk management tool at our displosal,” LaCross said Friday. “Without having these risk management tools, a lot of growers were left hanging last year.”