Washington cherry growers can now turn to federal aid to help with the cost of removing entire cherry blocks to slow the spread of little cherry disease. 

The U.S.Department of Agriculture’s Tree Assistance Program offers financial assistance to orchardists who replant trees lost to natural disasters, which includes the X-disease phytoplasma and little cherry virus. In August, the Washington committee decided that when the infection rate reaches 20 percent and growers decide to remove the entire block, all the remaining trees in the block also lose commercial viability and can be eligible for loss assistance.

According to an announcement from Washington State University Extension about the program, to be eligible, growers must provide test results showing presence of the pathogens and suffer at least 18 percent tree loss. To claim the entire block as a loss, growers will also need a letter from a third-party horticulturist that recommends removal to control the spread of the pathogens. A loss adjuster will need to visit before trees are removed — although they can be stumped and treated with herbicide. Growers will also need to replace eligible trees within 12 months of removal.

The program covers up to 65 percent of the actual cost of replanting, in excess of 15 percent mortality. More details are available at: http://treefruit.wsu.edu/article/tap/

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency oversees the program, so interested growers should contact their county’s FSA office for more information. 

—by Kate Prengaman