Lawmaker’s legislation creates a special loan in states of emergency

State Rep. Ray Franz has introduced legislation — which State Sen. Darwin Booher has announced his support for — to help provide financial relief for Michigan’s fruit farmers who were devastated by this winter’s early thaw and subsequent frost.

“It’s critical that farmers in our area and across the state have access to a lifeline when they need it,” Franz said. “Times have been tough for the industry these past few years. Despite all their hard work, ingenuity and cutting edge technology, agricultural producers are still vulnerable to unfriendly weather. This year’s unfortunate cold-snap represents the type of situation we should be better prepared for. When we’re in an official state of emergency, help should be readily available to producers.”

“This is an emergency for the State of Michigan,” said Booher, R-Evart. “An early April frost destroyed up to 90 percent of Michigan’s tart cherry crop and up to 80 percent of the apple crop. Statewide, it is estimated that our fruit farmers could lose more than $200 million this year.”

A Michigan State University study found that from 2006 to 2010 the average annual fruit sales were $361.9 million. Using these figures as a base, the estimated loss this year is 58 percent of the 2006-2010 average, or $209.8 million.

“Farmers are very proud people and when things happen to them they will try to get by, but this is one of those times when we have to step up and give them a hand,” Booher said. “This is not a handout, but a program designed to provide critical financial assistance to the hard-working farmers who are the backbone of our economy.”

Michigan farmers and producers in designated crop damage disaster areas will be eligible for low-interest loans of up to $1 million under a program Franz is introducing as House Bill 5717, the Agricultural Disaster Loan Origination Program Act of 2012.

The state House, Senate and Gov. Snyder have urged President Barack Obama and the U.S. Agriculture secretary to declare Southwest Michigan and all of Michigan’s fruit-growing regions disaster areas in the wake of weather conditions that devastated fruit crops, particularly grape production.

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