By Michael W. Sparks
The Hurricane Irma Florida citrus relief package is moving forward and Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) expect U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to unveil the program sometime in the next few weeks. FCM is in contact with our allies in Washington and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s staff on a daily basis.
Once the news breaks, we will get it out as fast as we can to membership. In the meantime, Florida Citrus Mutual strongly recommends growers purchase some level of crop insurance by April 15, 2018. This is the final date to apply for 2018-2019 coverage. Current policyholders who wish to make changes to their existing coverage also have until the April 15 sales closing date to do so.
As the details of the citrus relief package emerge, FCM believes purchasing at least catastrophic (CAT) insurance for the 2018-2019 is a show of good faith to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as providing limited protection for citrus growers. It appears the language authorizing the relief dollars does not require crop insurance for the 2018-2019 season. However, as you know, everything is open to interpretation.
Buying relatively cheap CAT insurance is well … insurance. Also understand that USDA and Congress are both very keen on crop insurance to offset losses from agricultural disasters, such as Hurricane Irma. We do know recipients of relief dollars will have to purchase crop insurance for the next two “available” years, and growers who had crop insurance at the time Irma hit will be eligible for greater relief payments than those who did not. Growers should take a hard look at their risk management portfolios now because there is zero chance our industry will be fortunate enough to secure direct payments, should a disaster hit in the future. That train has left the proverbial station.
Consequently, Florida Citrus Mutual through its Crop Insurance Advisory Committee is working with consultants, our Congressional delegation and the USDA to make Florida citrus’ insurance products a better tool for growers going forward. It is clear deductibles are too high, premiums are many times unaffordable, and indemnity payments are not consistent with current crop values. If we are to survive and ultimately thrive as an industry, the situation must be rectified.
See the Risk Management Agency’s press release regarding the April 15 closing date.
Growers can get a premium amount estimate here.
Michael W. Sparks is executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual.
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