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Heat Damaged Groves MAY BE Eligible for Tree Assistance Program Funding

California Avocado Commission— In early September much of California experienced excessive heat, including many avocado growing regions. A few growing areas reported sustained temperatures of around 120 degrees. Understandably, due to this extreme heat some trees are experiencing severe damage. The California Avocado Commission immediately contacted the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to pursue possible funding for growers under the Tree Assistance Program (TAP).

Under the TAP, “To be considered an eligible loss: Eligible trees, bushes, or vines must have suffered more than a 15 percent mortality loss in a stand (adjusted for normal mortality) due to an eligible natural disaster.” Here is a TAP Fact Sheet.

However, FSA has ruled “heat” is not an eligible event under the TAP program. In 2016, when a similar heat event occurred resulting in California avocado tree damage, the Commission was successful in getting FSA to include heat-related damage. Considering that FSA currently lists “freeze” (an extreme low temperature event) as a TAP-eligible event, there seems to be no basis to exclude extreme high temperature events.

The Commission is once again strongly advocating with FSA for the inclusion of “heat” as an eligible natural disaster and therefore inclusion in the TAP. As the Commission continues to pursue eligibility for the recent heat event, FSA is asking growers to submit their TAP application if they believe they have suffered the minimum threshold of damage. At this point, pending the FSA final determination, the applications will be rejected. Growers must then ask for an appeal.

While submitting a TAP application now —knowing it will initially be rejected — is not ideal, there is a 90-day timeline that must be adhered to for any future ruling on eligibility. According to TAP growers must apply “within 90 calendar days of the disaster event; or the date when the loss is apparent to the producer.” Thus, in order to ensure growers meet the 90-day rule, they should apply for TAP now while the Commission continues to advocate for the inclusion of “heat” as an eligible event. If growers do not apply within the prescribed 90 days of the heat event or appearance of loss, they will not be eligible for TAP in the event FSA rules in our favor.

If you believe your grove may meet the 15% mortality loss, you are encouraged to apply. The Commission will continue to work with FSA and keep you posted as additional information becomes available. 

Applications can be submitted to your local FSA office as follows:

Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties:
Santa Barbara County Farm Service Agency
Brenda Estrada, County Executive Director
920 E Stowell Rd., Santa Maria, CA 93454-7008
(805) 928-9269; (844) 206-7010 Fax
Brenda.Estrada@ca.usda.gov

Riverside, San Diego Counties:
Riverside County Farm Service Agency
81077 Indio Blvd. Ste. A, Indio, CA 92201
(760) 347-3675; (844) 206-6978 Fax
Desiree.Garza@usda.gov

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