Cabbage, strawberries and maple syrup are among specialty crops that aren’t covered with insurance, but farmers and advocates are pushing to change that in the new farm bill.

“We have a lot of specialty crop producers in New York, and we’re working to ensure all farms have access to these programs,” said New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher during a press conference highlighting their national priorities.

Farmers in the Empire State last year suffered frost damage to apple and grape crops, and high wind and heavy rain events created even more problems for specialty crop producers. Apple and grape losses qualify for some reimbursement from the federal government, but other crops lack proper coverage, Fisher said.  

“Hopefully a new farm bill can help address the unique needs of our specialty crop growers and expand the coverage,” he said.

The farm bill was extended for one year in November, and Congress continues to try and reach an agreement for a new deal.

New York is home to more than 2,000 maple syrup producers and is the second-highest producing state, trailing Vermont, but there is no federal insurance program to cover those producers. Dwayne Hill, who owns Shaver-Hill Maple Farm in Harpersfield, will produce about 5,000 gallons of syrup from 11,000 trees this year.

“We really don’t have any crop insurance for maple. There’s nothing out there and maple in New York state has a value of about $30 million, so it is pretty significant revenue to New York agriculture,” Hill said.

Maple syrup production is heavily dependent on changes in temperature and is sensitive to the freeze and thaw cycles of sap in the trees.

“With the seasons changing and invasive species, we have a lot of challenges that we have to overcome to still hopefully produce a decent product, but it is all up to Mother Nature, too,” Hill said.

Due to varying weather patterns, different areas of the state will have better years than others.

“I think it would be helpful so that when producers have a huge market for syrup, they can afford to purchase some from other parts of the state to maintain their customer base,” Hill said.

Tapping 11,000 trees is a process and requires a lot of energy, he said.

“We have a lot of time and labor inputs before we even know when the sap is going to run, so it’s a gamble. It’s agriculture, we realize that, but I do think it would be a good idea to be included [under insurance],” Hill said.