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Federal funds released for pecan growers

By Gabe Jordan

Managing Editor

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that additional assistance has been made available for pecan growers to replant and replace trees through the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) as they recover from the impacts of 2017 weather events.

That’s good news for many Georgia pecan growers. Georgia is the nation’s largest producer of pecans, with production values as high as $250,000,000, and Hurricane Irma brought a lot of devastation to orchards in the Crisp County area.

“A lot of the trees that were damaged from Hurricane Irma are still splitting,” said Brad Ellis, vice president of Ellis Brothers Pecans in Vienna. “We lost lots of limbs and cleanup was astronomical. We’re still cleaning up some of it.”

Ellis, a past president of the Georgia Pecan Growers Association and current vice president of the National Pecan Growers Association, said his orchards were hit hard, but it could have been worse.

“We lost around 2000 trees, but not a lot of acreage. They were young trees, mostly, that were densely planted,” he said.

That means that production yield

for this year’s crop may not be significantly hampered, but input costs may be higher due to cleanup, replacement and replanting from last year’s storms. The overall quality of this year’s crop should be good, Ellis said.

“Overall I’d say this year’s crop is going to be pretty good. Most people followed their spraying program, so wet weather during the spring shouldn’t be a factor as far as scab is concerned,” Ellis said. Pecan scab is the most economically significant pecan tree disease in the South.

Still, the additional federal funds offers pecan growers the opportunity to overcome any losses from 2017.

“These funds will help the industry recover and replace lost and damaged trees,” said USDA Farm Production and Conservation Under Secretary Bill Northey.

Funding will be provided through the TAP, a program administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Up to $15 million is available to eligible pecan orchardists or pecan nursery tree growers for certain mortality losses incurred during 2017. To be eligible, the grower must have suffered a mortality loss on a stand in excess of 7.5 percent, but less than 15 percent, adjusted for normal mortality.

In addition to TAP, growers and orchardists may be eligible for other 2014 Farm Bill programs. For example, pecan orchardists and nursery tree growers who suffered greater than a 15 percent mortality loss remain eligible under the regular TAP provisions. Under Secretary Northey urged those who may be eligible to work with their local state or county FSA office.

To qualify for a TAP payment for pecan tree losses, orchardists and nursery tree growers must have:

· planted, or be considered to have planted (by purchase before the loss of existing stock planted for commercial purposes) pecan trees for commercial purposes, or have a production history, for commercial purposes, of planted or existing trees;

· suffered a qualifying pecan tree loss in excess of 7.5 percent mortality (after adjustment for normal mortality), from Jan. 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2017; and

· continuously owned the stand from the time of the disaster until the time that the TAP application is submitted.