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Helping farmers recover

Disaster funding available to help ag producers

Jill Schramm/MDN Many farmers faced harvesting fields with crops standing water this past fall. This photo was taken north of Minot in November 2019. Disaster assistance is being offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Once farmers have completed harvest and all crop insurance claims are settled, they are eligible to apply through their county Farm Service Agency office for assistance covering production losses, according to Sen. John Hoeven’s office on Jan. 2.

This past year was an extremely difficult year for agriculture producers with concerns about the drought conditions early in 2019, then turning into extremely wet conditions later in the year leaving many many crops left standing and problems for livestock producers to get enough hay for cattle going into the 2019-2020 winter months.

What will happen in the next months is yet to be seen.

Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, secured disaster funding under WHIP+.

USDA offers the WHIP+program to help farmers hurt by natural disasters. The Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) provides disaster payments to offset losses from natural disasters.

The funding’s currently available including the $3 billion passed last May and the additional $1.5 billion approved in December, Hoeven’s office said in an email on Jan. 2.

“Further, we added coverage under WHIP+ for quality losses in the FY2020 Agriculture Appropriations legislation, and we are working with USDA as they write the regulations for this new coverage to ensure it works for North Dakota farmers. Producers can apply for quality losses once these regulations are finalized, and USDA has not imposed a deadline for WHIP+ at this time,” his office said.

“In addition to disaster assistance, we are working with USDA to provide trade assistance under the Market Facilitation Program and have been advancing those payments as quickly as possible. To date (Jan. 2), North Dakota producers have received $537 million from the two tranches of MFP, with the latest tranche of payments having been released in November. We continue working with USDA to confirm the next tranche of payments, hopefully early in the new year,” his office also said.

Shortly before the new year, in late December Hoeven brought together North Dakota producers, agriculture leaders and officials from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) at a gathering in Fargo to discuss the additional disaster assistance he secured for farmers impacted by severe weather. He advanced the measures as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Agriculture Appropriations legislation that was passed and signed into law last month.

Specifically, Hoeven ensured the legislation, according to information from his office:

– Provides $1.5 billion in disaster assistance, which is being reprogrammed from unspent FY2017 disaster funding. This funding is in addition to the $3 billion in disaster assistance approved by Congress in May.

– Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to make disaster payments to eligible sugar cooperatives.

– Expands program eligibility to cover quality losses, in addition to production losses.

– Clarifies eligible disaster events by including losses related to excess moisture and D3 drought.

“With everything our farmers are working to overcome, this additional $1.5 billion in disaster assistance is an important step in providing certainty and helping them maintain their operations,” said Hoeven. “Our efforts in the Agriculture Appropriations bill were all about ensuring there was enough funding in place to help our farmers recover. Further, we worked to provide broad enough coverage to help producers with the wide range of challenges they face, from excessive moisture affecting grains to sugar beets frozen in the ground.”

FY2020 Agriculture Priorities

In addition to the disaster provisions, Hoeven worked to ensure the bill funds important risk management tools and agriculture programs, including:

– Crop insurance.

– Implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill.

– Full funding for direct, guaranteed and emergency loans.

– Hoeven’s Water Bank Initiative.

– Funding for the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy Grant Program (RISE) and the Agriculture Innovation Center Program (AIC) which will support the development of rural broadband and precision agriculture, including at Grand Farm.

– Agriculture research conducted under the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), including research to benefit wheat, barley, pulse crops, sugar beets, alfalfa, potatoes, small grains, livestock and the development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) applications in precision agriculture.