Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma last year was the fact that nearly 1/3 of Georgia’s pecan harvest – nearly 30 million lbs. – was wiped out by the storm. Georgia is the nation’s top pecan producing state, with over 170,000 acres of trees planted primarily across the southern parts of the state.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), headed up by former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, announced this week that it would be providing up to $15 million via the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) to distressed pecan farmers in the state. To be eligible for aid pecan orchardists and nursery tree growers must have lost 7.5% of their crop in calendar year 2017.
TAP was instituted in the Farm Bill of 2014, and expanded in 2018’s Bipartisan Budget Act. Aided by high profile Peach State politicians close to President Donald Trump, most notably the aforementioned Sonny Perdue and his cousin, Senator David Perdue, TAP was amended to remove the per-person payment ceiling and doubled the maximum acreage covered. Those changes figure to help Georgia farmers bounce back from what was a devastating 2017.
Local farmers are also feeling the squeeze from the ongoing trade wars between the U.S. and China. Pecan farmers are no exception, facing a 47 percent tariff on their exports to the Asian nation, a major consumer of their produce. The federal government is helping there as well, offering relief to pecan (and other) farmers as those negotiations continue.
One of those programs is the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Agricultural Trade Promotion Program, which will spend over $200 million on developing relationships with alternative foreign markets to purchase American agricultural products. By connecting these new markets to farmers, including those in Georgia, hopefully the tariffs and penalties that currently exist in countries such as China can be avoided.
Said Perdue on the assistance programs, “President Trump has been standing up to China and other nations, sending the clear message that the United States will no longer tolerate their unfair trade practices, which include non-tariff trade barriers and the theft of intellectual property. In short, the President has taken action to benefit all sectors of the American economy — including agriculture — in the long run,” said Perdue. “It’s important to note all of this could go away tomorrow, if China and the other nations simply correct their behavior. But in the meantime, the programs we are announcing today buy time for the president to strike long-lasting trade deals to benefit our entire economy.”