Booher announces bill to address disaster relief to Michigan’s fruit farmers

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LANSING – Sen. Darwin Booher joined several other state lawmakers on Tuesday to announce that legislation has been introduced to help provide financial relief for Michigan’s fruit farmers, who were devastated by this winter’s early thaw and subsequent frost.

“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 recent 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.”

In 2002, the Michigan Legislature passed the Michigan Farm Disaster Relief Program, which provided assistance to Michigan farmers having financial hardship due to significant weather-related crop losses. House Bill 5717, sponsored by Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, would create a similar program, aimed at providing relief to affected farmers in the form of low-interest loans.

“As a former banker with experience in lending to agriculture, I know the dedication of this industry to our state and our local communities,” Booher said. “Agriculture feeds our people and our economic growth. That is why it is so important to work together to respond quickly to the need of our farmers and help them financially recover from this disaster.”

The state 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.

A print-quality photograph of Booher at the press conference is available by visiting the senator’s website at: Click on “Photowire.”

Video of Booher as the press conference is also available on the website, under the “Video” tab.



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