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USDA rolls out disaster, hurricane aid package

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Signup for more than $3 billion in WHIP assistance will begin Sept. 11.

Help is on the way for agricultural producers faced with recent natural disasters, including the most recent landfall of Hurricane Dorian. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that producers affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 can apply for assistance through the Wildfire & Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Signup for this U.S. Department of Agriculture program will begin Sept. 11, 2019.

More than $3 billion is available through the disaster relief package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in early June. WHIP+ builds on the successes of its predecessor 2017 Wildfire & Hurricane Indemnity Program that was authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

Perdue made the announcement during the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting in New Mexico on Monday.

“U.S. agriculture has been dealt a hefty blow by extreme weather over the last several years, and 2019 is no exception,” Perdue said. “The scope of this year’s prevented planting alone is devastating, and although these disaster program benefits will not make producers whole, we hope the assistance will ease some of the financial strain farmers, ranchers and their families are experiencing. President Trump has the backs of our farmers, and we are working to support America’s great patriot farmers.”

In addition, the relief package included new programs to cover losses for milk dumped or removed from the commercial market and losses of eligible farm stored commodities due to disaster events in 2018 and 2019. Also, prevented planting supplemental disaster payments will provide support to producers who were prevented from planting eligible crops for the 2019 crop year.

NASDA chief executive officer Barb Glenn said the announcement underscores the importance of state/federal partnerships to serve America’s farmers and ranchers nationwide.

“We’re grateful for USDA’s swift action on the disaster relief program focused on farmers an­d rural communities. In this especially challenging year, extra resources are needed for agricultural communities and businesses to remain viable after suffering tremendous losses from extensive damage caused by natural disasters,” Glenn said in a statement following the announcement. “We look forward to working with USDA to help implement this rule and reinforce a system that supports resiliency in American agriculture.”

Who’s covered?

WHIP+ will be available for eligible producers who have suffered eligible losses of certain crops, trees, bushes or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only). Disaster losses must have been a result of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms or wildfires that occurred in 2018 or 2019. Also, producers in counties that did not received a disaster declaration or designation may still apply for WHIP+ but must provide supporting documentation to establish that the crops were directly affected by a qualifying disaster loss.

A list of counties that received qualifying disaster declarations and designations is available at farmers.gov/recover/whip-plus.  Because grazing and livestock losses, other than milk losses, are covered by other disaster recovery programs offered through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), those losses are not eligible for WHIP+.

The WHIP+ payment factor ranges from 75% to 95%, depending on the level of crop insurance coverage or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) coverage that a producer obtained for the crop. Producers who did not insure their crops in 2018 or 2019 will receive 70% of the expected value of the crop. Insured crops (either crop insurance or NAP coverage) will receive between 75% and 95% of expected value; those who purchased the highest levels of coverage will receive 95% of the expected value.

Once signup begins, a producer will be asked to provide verifiable and reliable production records. If a producer is unable to provide production records, WHIP+ payments will be determined based on the lower of either the actual loss certified by the producer and determined acceptable by FSA or the county expected yield and county disaster yield. The county disaster yield is what a producer would have been expected to produce based on the eligible disaster conditions in the county.

WHIP+ payments for 2018 disasters will be eligible for 100% of their calculated value. WHIP+ payments for 2019 disasters will be limited to an initial 50% of their calculated value, with an opportunity to receive up to the remaining 50% after Jan. 1, 2020, if sufficient funding remains.

The Milk Loss Program will provide payments to eligible dairy operations for milk that was dumped or removed without compensation from the commercial milk market because of a qualifying 2018 or 2019 natural disaster. Producers who suffered losses of harvested commodities, including hay, stored in on-farm structures in 2018 and 2019 will receive assistance through the On-Farm Storage Loss Program.

Prevented planting bonus

USDA also offered an extra influx of cash to those producers who faced significant challenges in planting their 2019 crop.

All producers with flooding or excess moisture-related prevented planting insurance claims in the 2019 calendar year will receive a prevented planting supplemental disaster (“bonus”) payment equal to 10% of their prevented planting indemnity, plus an additional 5% will be provided to those who purchased harvest price option coverage.

As under the 2017 program, WHIP+ will provide prevented planting assistance to uninsured producers, NAP producers and producers who may have been prevented from planting an insured crop in the 2018 crop year and those 2019 crops that had a final planting date prior to Jan. 1, 2019.

TAGS: Policy
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