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USDA offers $2.36b for hurricane, wildfire assistance

Wildfires & Hurricanes Indemnity Program offers additional assistance for producers in at least nine states.

May 2, 2018

4 Min Read
USDA offers $2.36b for hurricane, wildfire assistance
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue sits with members of his sub-cabinet to discuss the efforts and assistance to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, Aug. 28, 2017, in Washington, D.C.USDA Photo by Preston Keres

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced new details on eligibility for the 2017 Wildfires & Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP). The $2.36 billion recovery program, administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), is designed to help producers in at least nine states recover their agricultural operations from hurricane and wildfire damage.  

“Last year, our nation experienced some of the most significant disasters we have seen in decades, some back to back, at the most critical time in their production year. While USDA has a suite of disaster programs as well as crop insurance available to help producers manage their risk, Congress felt it was important to provide extra assistance to our nation’s farms and ranches that were the hardest hit last year,” Perdue said. “At President (Donald) Trump’s direction, our team is working as quickly as possible to make this new program available to farmers in need. Our aim is to provide excellent customer service, building on efforts that began the day the storm hit.”

Key updates include:

  • Hurricane recovery -- To be eligible, a crop, tree, bush or vine must be located in a primary disaster county with either a presidential declaration or a secretarial designation due to a 2017 hurricane. Crops, trees, bushes or vines located in other counties may also be eligible if the producer provides documentation that the loss was caused by a 2017 hurricane.

  • Wildfire recovery -- Any crop, tree, bush or vine damaged by a 2017 wildfire is eligible.

  • Eligible producers -- Eligibility will be determined on an individual basis using the level of insurance coverage purchased for 2017 for the total crop acres on the area for which the WHIP application is made. Eligible producers who certify to an average adjusted gross income (AGI) of at least 75% derived from farming or ranching, including other agriculture and forestry-based businesses, during the 2013, 2014 and 2015 tax years will be eligible for a $900,000 payment limitation with verification. All other eligible producers requesting 2017 WHIP benefits will be subject to a $125,000 payment limitation.

  • Crop insurance requirement -- Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for WHIP. However, all producers opting to receive 2017 WHIP payments will be required to purchase crop insurance at the 60% coverage level or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) at the 60% buy-up coverage level if crop insurance is not available. Coverage must be in place for the next two applicable crop years to meet program requirements.

  • Acreage reporting requirements -- In addition, for the applicable crop years, all producers are required to file an acreage report and report production (if applicable).

  • Payment formula -- FSA will calculate WHIP payments with this formula: Payment = Expected Value of the Crop x WHIP Factor - Value of Crop Harvested - Insurance Indemnity. The WHIP factor ranges from 65% to 95%. Producers who did not insure their crops in 2017 will receive a 65% WHIP Factor. Insured producers, or producers who had NAP, will receive a WHIP Factor between 70% and 95%; those purchasing higher levels of coverage will receive a higher WHIP Factor.

FSA will hold a signup for 2017 WHIP no later than July 16. Additional information on WHIP is available on FSA’s 2017 WHIP webpage. For immediate assistance under any other disaster programs, contact a local USDA service center, or learn more at www.fsa.usda.gov/disaster

Citrus assistance

Additionally, USDA will provide $340 million through a block grant to the state of Florida for Hurricane Irma losses to citrus production expected during the 2018 to 2020 crop years, reimbursement for the cost of buying and planting replacement trees -- including resetting and grove rehabilitation -- and for repair of damages to irrigation systems, among other things.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the state’s citrus growers have faced many challenges over the last few years, including fighting citrus greening, which was compounded by the ravaging effects of Hurricane Irma.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam added, “While no amount of relief can make the farmers who suffered damages from Hurricane Irma whole, this much-needed disaster relief will help Florida agriculture get back on its feet. I thank Secretary Perdue, Gov. Scott, our federal leaders and the agriculture industry for their collaborative efforts to provide this relief. Florida’s $120 billion agriculture industry is a pillar of our economy, and we must continue to give our farmers and ranchers the support they need to thrive.”

Of the significant disasters the U.S. experienced last year, Perdue said, "The Florida citrus industry was likely hit the hardest, and with such a high-value crop, they face a steeper financial burden and, as a whole, have less coverage through our traditional insurance options. Under the direction of President Trump, my office has been working directly with Governor Scott and Commissioner Putnam in Florida to put a process in place that will ensure the Florida citrus industry maintains its infrastructure and can continue to be the signature crop for the state.”

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