Update on Heat Event; WHIP Payments Available for 2017 Wildfire Damage
Heat Event Update
Some in the industry have asked if an emergency declaration for our industry due to the heat would be issued. This declaration occurs based on a county-by-county basis, and to occur a crop must suffer at least 30 percent damage of an entire year’s crop from the disaster within that specific county. While some crop damage did occur, based on the amount of crop that has already been harvested the 30 percent threshold has not been reached from this recent heat event.
Based on conversations with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) the California Avocado Commission (CAC) has learned that a “heat event” is no longer considered an eligible event under the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). This is a policy reversal by FSA from the 2016 extreme temperatures in Riverside County when CAC successfully argued that growers who suffered qualifying tree death should be covered under the TAP. The Commission is once again preparing to make the case with FSA that heat should be a covered event and will keep you posted. If that effort is successful, a “stand” (e.g. grove, block, etc.) must have suffered 18 percent whole tree death to meet the minimum threshold for eligibility. CAC will provide an update once a decision on the appeal is reached.
2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program
Now a bit of good news. Earlier this year Congress passed the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP). California avocado growers who experienced losses due to the 2017 California wildfires are encouraged to sign up for the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP). Congress has appropriated $2.36 billion in disaster relief to offset losses agricultural producers suffered due to these natural disasters. Wildfire recovery funds also will include losses due to mudslides and heavy smoke.
WHIP payments will be determined based on the individual’s expected value of the lost crop, the value of the crop harvest, insurance coverage and insurance payments received. The program covers the loss of crops and trees. Producers are limited to a $125,000 payment unless they can verify that three-fourths or more of their income is derived from an agricultural-based business — then the payment limit is $900,000. Unlike the Tree Assistance Program, adjusted gross income is not applicable to WHIP.
Both growers with or without federal crop insurance can apply for WHIP, but all producers receiving 2017 WHIP payments will be required to purchase risk management coverage for the next two crop years at a minimum of 60 percent coverage level.
Growers can sign up for the WHIP program beginning July 16, 2018 at their regional FSA office. Producers will need to provide verifiable and reliable production records by crop, type, practice, intended use and acres, and should be prepared to have production records for the last five years. If growers do not have production records, the USDA will calculate yield based on 65 percent of county expected yield.
For more information, visit the USDA’s Disaster Resource Center, or call 805.928.9269 ext. 2 (Ventura and Santa Barbara counties) or 760.347.3675 ext. 107 (Riverside and San Diego counties).