Thursday the President signed the $19.1 million disaster aid package following the House’s passage earlier this week. Billions of dollars will be made available for farmers and communities recovering from recent natural disasters, including hurricanes and wildfires.
The Act includes $4.5 billion to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for agricultural-related losses, emergency timber restoration, farmland repair, and watershed recovery work to help farmers and ranchers. It also provides $3.3 billion for the Corps of Engineers to repair damages caused by natural disasters, to invest in new flood and storm damage reduction projects, and to make the nation more resilient to future natural disasters.
Specifically, the bill provides $3 billion for farm-related losses and on-farm stored commodities through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP). In 2017 the WHIP program edibility wasn’t limited to primary counties with primary counties with Presidential Emergency Disaster Declarations or Secretarial Disaster Designations. It made assistance available for producers who suffered from excessive rain and flooding as determined by FSA county committees.
Senate staffers indicated that the bill does not specify whether or not you have to be in a disaster county in order to qualify for assistance, so that will be determined by USDA as they implement the program.
“We look forward to implementing this disaster aid package in a fair way and working with state leadership to identify where the true losses and needs are to best serve our fellow Americans in need of a helping hand,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement following the signing.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall called the disaster bill a lifeline for farmers. “The last two years have brought historic hurricanes like Florence and Michael. We have faced wildfires, tornadoes and flooding that has led to the worst planting season on record for many commodities. Many farmers have faced near-complete losses, and this measure will help us weather the storm,” Duvall said.
“Americans have always come together in times of need to help lift our neighbors and support our communities. We thank Congress and the President for delivering this much-needed assistance for American agriculture,” Duvall added.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) said the disaster package was long-past due. “Politics shouldn’t be played when Americans need help recovering from disasters.”
Grassley helped secure specific relief for farmers whose grain bins busted because of flooding. “This should help those affected, especially in Southwest Iowa, in the continued effort to rebuild and recover. This package is a good start for addressing Midwest flooding needs. I will continue to work with farmers, communities and the state on what further assistance will be needed.”