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Hudson Valley Congressman's Bill Reforms Crop Insurance

Doug Kerr, flickr

New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, has introduced his first bill since taking office in January. It has to do with better protecting fruit and vegetable farmers when it comes to crop insurance.

Maloney says The CROP Act, or The Creating Reliability for Our Producers Act, aims to reform crop insurance to help so-called specialty crop farmers, namely, fruit and vegetable growers.

And part of the solution is to enable farmers to diversify their crops while having insurance particular to their farming setups. Maire Ullrich, is the agricultural issue leader at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orange County. She says diversification of crops is at an all-time high in the Hudson Valley. She explains there is crop insurance for the big five – corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, and wheat. And there is coverage for apples and onions, all having to do with how much is grown in a county, how much acreage is used for the crops.

…She says the payout is too little, and the coverage highly dependent upon a number of factors. According to Cornell Coop, after Hurricane Irene, Orange County suffered as much as $50 million in lost produce, much of it in the Black Dirt region, which is mainly in the Town of Warwick, including the Hamlet of Pine Island. Chris Pawelski is a fourth-generation onion farmer in the Black Dirt region. He says even with insurance for onions, he still does not have enough protection.

Congressman Maloney says he wants to make sure future disasters do not leave farmers without a means to recover.

In fact, he says Republican Congressman Chris Gibson is a co-sponsor of the bill, which is similar to legislation previously introduced in the Senate, by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. She says that version of crop insurance to protect fruit and vegetable farmers was part of a rewritten Farm Bill.

Chris Pawelski, a farming advocate who has been involved in farming policy for several years, says The CROP Act is promising.

Maloney held a town-hall meeting on agriculture in Orange County in February, in Warwick. He says he heard from farmers that Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture must do a better job of protecting farmers, especially in the aftermath of such devastating storms like Hurricane Irene.

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