"Many details are still being resolved about the new federal farm disaster assistance programs, but right now producers need to plan and take action if they want to be eligible for disaster assistance in 2009," said Farm Service Agency California State Executive Director John Smythe. "The 2008 Farm Bill Disaster Assistance Program implements a risk management provision. This specifies that producers have federal crop insurance or Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) coverage for program eligibility. Deadlines for 2009 are quickly approaching."

Immediate deadlines coming up in December and January are:

- Dec. 15: NAP - 2009 Fruit and Nut Tree crops, Strawberries, Olives and Asparagus.

- Jan. 1: NAP - 2010 Citrus Crop

- Jan. 12: SURE Buy-In - 2009 Citrus, Avocado and Nursery (extended deadline)

- Jan. 31: NAP - 2009 Apple Crop

Note also that Dec. 31, 2008, is the crop insurance sales deadline for 2009 AGR, fruit and nut tree crops, fresh and processed tomatoes and table grapes.

"Crop insurance dates vary but it's more important than ever that producers check dates for all of their crops. A key component of the disaster assistance is that all crops on all farms have coverage," explained Smythe.

"That means if a producer normally purchases insurance for his grain but doesn't bother covering his tomatoes, now he needs to buy coverage for both his grain and tomatoes to maintain disaster program eligibility on either or both of his crops”, said Smythe. “Our agency is concerned that many producers will learn the details the hard way when they seek assistance after suffering losses,"

Crop insurance, purchased from private insurers, is not available for all crops in California’s diverse agriculture. The NAP protection option is designed for crops not covered by insurance and is sold through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices.

The NAP service fee is $250 per crop or $750 per producer per administrative county, not to exceed a total of $1,875 per producer with farming interests in multiple counties. Limited resource producers may request a waiver of service fees. Crop insurance prices vary by crop and by level of coverage.

The 2008 farm bill disaster assistance programs that require crop insurance or NAP coverage include: the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), Tree Assistance Program (TAP), and Emergency Assistance Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).

The SURE program will be available to eligible producers on farms in disaster counties, designated by the secretary of agriculture, including contiguous counties that have incurred crop production losses and/or crop quality losses during the crop year. In 2008, every county in California qualified as an eligible disaster county except for San Francisco County. SURE is also available for any farm where, during the calendar year, the total loss because of weather exceeds 50 percent of normal.

For additional information about the disaster assistance programs, individuals should contact their Farm Service Agency county office or check online at: www.fsa.usda.gov/ca.