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USDA to make $2.36b in disaster paymentsUSDA to make $2.36b in disaster payments

Budget Act provides more than $3 billion for hurricane and wildfire disaster relief by creating new programs and expediting or enhancing payments for producers.

April 6, 2018

3 Min Read
USDA to make $2.36b in disaster payments
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 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will make disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion, as provided by Congress, to help America’s farmers and ranchers recover from hurricanes and wildfires.

The funds are available as part of the new 2017 Wildfires & Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP). Signup for the new program, authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will begin no later than July 16.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will make these disaster payments to agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and devastating wildfires. The 2017 calendar year was a historic year for natural disasters, and this investment is part of a broader suite of programs that USDA is delivering to rural America to aid recovery. In total, the Budget Act provided more than $3 billion in disaster relief by creating new programs and expediting or enhancing payments for producers.

“America’s farmers feed our nation and much of the world, and throughout history, they have known good years and bad years, but when significant disasters strike, we are ready to step in and provide the assistance they need,” Perdue said. “USDA is working as quickly as possible to develop procedures and a system by which affected producers can access disaster assistance. For producers new to FSA programs, we encourage you to visit your local USDA service center now to establish farm records.”

The new 2017 WHIP will provide significant disaster assistance and be guided by the following principles:

  • Eligibility will be limited to producers in counties that experienced hurricanes or wildfires designated as presidentially declared disasters in 2017.

  • Compensation will be determined by a producer’s individual losses rather than an average of losses for a particular area (where data are available).

  • Producers who purchased higher levels of risk protection, such as crop insurance or a non-insured crop disaster assistance program, will receive higher payments.

  • Advance payments will be made for up to 50%.

  • Payment recipients will be required to obtain future risk protection.

WHIP disaster payments are being issued in addition to payments through traditional programs, some of which obtained increased funding or were amended by the act to make the programs more responsive, including the Emergency Conservation Program, Emergency Watershed Protection Program, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees & Farm-raised Fish Program, Tree Assistance Program and Livestock Indemnity Program.

During 2017, the U.S. experienced a historic year of weather-related disasters, with an economic impact totaling more than $300 billion. In total, the U.S. was affected by 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events, including: three tropical cyclones, eight severe storms, two inland floods, a crop freeze, drought and wildfire. More than 25 million people – almost 8% of the population – were affected by major disasters.

FSA will distribute more information on how producers can file claims for WHIP disaster payments at a later date. For questions on how to establish farm records in order to be prepared when the WHIP signup begins, or to learn about other disaster assistance programs, producers may contact their local USDA service center.

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