Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Crop Insurance: a Smart Step toward Sustainability

By Diana Duff

A big part of being a successful business is learning ways to manage risks. When your business is growing food, plants or flowers, insuring your crop can help protect you from financial disaster as well as cover minor set-backs in production. Though we hate to think of the possibilities, we do live in a place where storms, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, droughts, fires or lava flows can negatively affect our crops. Of course, our frequent heavy rains and strong winds are lesser dangers, but they can also severely impact a harvest. Fluctuations in markets can also cause financial losses. Growers with crop insurance can face these potential problems with less anxiety knowing that if losses do occur they are covered.

The US Department of Agriculture, in its efforts to keep agriculture viable in this country by helping farmers be sustainable, underwrites insurance for many crops. Many of the crops covered in this program are ones we grow here in Hawaii. Coffee and bananas are covered as well as papayas, macnuts and livestock with premium discounts available for beginning farmers and ranchers. A new Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program is being launched as well through the latest Farm Bill and will cover most crops including fruits, vegetables, animals and aquaculture with highly diversified growers receiving additional subsidies. The US Congress updates the nation’s Farm Bill every five years. The Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that covers federal government policies related to agriculture and includes many assistance programs for farmers. The latest version offers special benefits to new farmers as well as those with limited resources. The many programs offered through Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency and its Risk Management Agency as well as the Agricultural Mediation Program are all part of the Farm Bill and designed to help farmers succeed. The programs serve the interest of USDA to make farming a sustainable occupation in this country. Though many small farmers feel the programs only benefit large corporate farms; that is not the intention of the USDA or the actual fact. Many of their programs can be very helpful to small and organic farms and growers here in Hawaii. We only need better access to information about these programs and their coverage dates. Sign up dates are especially important when insuring your crops against damage of any kind. Call an agent to determine the application deadlines. Trees of coffee, banana, papaya and macnuts as well as coffee and macnut fruit can all be insured. A new Whole Farm Revenue Protection policy covers most crops and may have a different deadline. Nursery crops can be insured at any time with policies taking effect 30 days after paper work has been filed, and livestock risk protection price coverage can be locked in anytime for growers that have an application on file with a carrier. Insurance Agent, Bonnie Lind represents two of USDA’s most experienced Approved Insurance Providers in our area: Rural Community Insurance Service and ProAg Insurance Services. To learn ways to protect your farm income from crop and revenue losses and to get an overview of programs that can help manage your farming risks, be sure to check with an agent. To contact Bonnie Lind directly call 888-276-7728 or e-mail

 If you are growing and selling crops, be sure to consider crop insurance as a way to responsibly manage natural and marketing risks that can cause crop and revenue losses to your business.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant living on an organic farm in Captain Cook. Tropical Gardening Helpline E-mail plant questions to for answers by Certified Master Gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.  

Steve asks: My lime tree is producing limes this year that seem especially hard and have little to no juice. Do you know of a cause and cure for this problem? Tropical Gardener

Answer: Several conditions can produce citrus fruit that lack juice. Your elevation and the location of your tree can be factors. Juiciness can be affected by weather conditions as well as soil type, irrigation frequency and nutritional contents in the soil as well as pest issues. Your sample did not seem to have any pest problems. Citrus trees do best with a good consistent moisture level. One way to be sure that they get sufficient moisture is to install a drip irrigation system around the root zone of the tree. Several mineral elements can affect juice content of the fruit. For example, nitrogen can help increase juice content and acid concentration, but it can also increase the thickness of the peel and it needs to be balanced with other nutrients as well. A proper balance of major nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium is necessary to produce quality fruit. It is recommended that you do a soil test before adding any fertilizers, however, so that you can add what is needed without risking toxic doses. Citrus fertilizers usually contain all the ingredients necessary for production of quality fruit. Though citrus trees can tolerate the heat at lower elevations in Kona, they may be adversely affected by salt spray at properties near the ocean. They also will do well at upper elevations in West Hawaii. Good soil drainage is important at any elevation. Another way to help citrus produce juicy fruit is to help keep their roots cool and moist and the soil in the root zone healthy by applying a thick layer of mulch to the area.

 Mo' Fresh. Mo' Betta.™

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