Tree Assistance Program aids growers affected by natural disasters

WATERVILLE — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Tree Assistance Program (TAP) is providing disaster assistance to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate trees, bushes, and vines that were lost because of an eligible natural disaster, according to a news release from the Chelan and Douglas County FSA (Farm Service Agency) offices.

TAP applies to orchardists and nursery tree growers who commercially raise perennial trees for production of an annual crop and sustain tree deaths in excess of 15 percent in a calendar year (or loss period in a case of plant disease) because of natural disaster after adjustment for normal mortality. TAP authorizes payments to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers who actually replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines, and who produce nursery, ornamental, fruit, nut or Christmas trees for commercial sale.

To be eligible for TAP, an eligible owner of trees, bushes, or vines, or a grower of the annual crop produced from the trees, bushes, or vines with a claim to ownership share in the annual crop, must have trees, bushes and vines that were directly affected by an eligible natural disaster. Fire Blight is considered an eligible cause of loss in Washington State.

To be considered an eligible loss under TAP, eligible trees, bushes, or vines must have reached mortality (that is, died) above and below ground, as a result of an eligible natural disaster event. If a tree, bush, or vine is damaged to such an extent that it is no longer commercially viable, it is considered eligible.

Determining mortality loss for plant disease differs from natural disaster because the time period between bacterial, fungal, or viral infection and symptom appearance can be from a few days to several years. Therefore, the 15 percent mortality threshold and normal mortality calculation for plant disease is cumulative based on the loss and time period. For Fire Blight, the loss period cannot exceed two-years from the onset or detection of the disease.

Producers must file an application within 90-days of when the disease is first apparent. FSA must conduct an on-site inspection before the trees are removed/destroyed. Also to confirm prognosis, a plant pathology report must be obtained. FSA can help producers contact someone to conduct that.

For more information on applying for TAP benefits, contact the Douglas County FSA office in Waterville at 745-8561 or the Chelan County FSA office in Wenatchee at 662-1141.