Sec. 731 of Division A (Agriculture) makes the USDA Tree Assistance program much more generous, but only for producers of pecans. Normally, under the program any commercial orchard in an area declared a disaster by the Secretary of Agriculture can receive subsidies to help them replant trees they lose or to prune and save trees damaged because of the disaster. As long as the losses exceed 15 percent of their total trees (factoring in normal rates of mortality), taxpayers will cover 65 percent of replacement costs or 50 percent of efforts at salvaging trees. This bill creates a “shallow loss” program on top of this disaster programs.
Orchards with 7.5 percent loss, but less than 15 percent, in calendar year 2017 will get payments (totaling up to $15 million). But only if the trees were pecans. Almonds, hazelnuts, Christmas trees, blueberries, any tree or bush that’s eligible under the normal program is out of luck.
The top three states and their percentage of national pecan production: Texas (30 percent), Georgia (23 percent), and Oklahoma (19 percent).