The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Oct. 30, 2020, as the deadline to submit applications for the Wildfire & Hurricane Indemnity Program – Plus (WHIP+) for 2018 and 2019 losses. USDA did not originally specify a deadline when the program was announced.
“The physical and financial loss experienced by farmers and ranchers impacted by natural disaster events in 2018 and 2019 was widespread and catastrophic,” said Richard Fordyce, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “Fortunately, in addition to our already extensive suite of disaster assistance programs for crop and livestock producers, we were able to provide additional support through WHIP+. If you have not yet submitted your application for assistance, please don’t miss your chance.”
WHIP+ compensates producers for losses due to hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, drought, excessive moisture and wildfires occurring in calendar years 2018 and 2019. Drought and excessive moisture were added as eligible losses for the program in March 2020. To date, FSA has received more than 133,000 applications for WHIP+ disaster assistance and paid out nearly $1.4 billion in benefits.
This week, FSA will launch a new tool on the farmers.gov WHIP+ webpage to help producers understand eligibility for the program and whether they had possible losses in 2018 and 2019. The tool will also allow producers an opportunity to provide information for FSA staff to reach out to them.
FSA soon will announce the details for producers who experienced quality loss from 2018 and 2019 natural disaster events authorized in appropriations legislation. There will be a separate signup period for producers reporting quality loss.
Legislators welcomed the news. House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) said producers have been waiting to get assistance for their 2019 quality losses and now can do so in the coming weeks.
“I also hope that an end date for signup on WHIP+ losses means that producers waiting for the second half of their payment on 2019 losses should be receiving it soon,” Peterson said. “The 2019 crop season was one of the most difficult for many farmers, including those in my district, and I know producers will be glad to take this final step to put those memories behind them.”
Following an aggressive push recently, Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.) said he was pleased to secure answers for northeastern Montana farmers who have waited nearly a year for disaster relief for last year’s quality losses.
“Better late than never, but when it comes to providing relief to northeastern Montana farmers who have been waiting nearly a year for FSA to get its act together, this is unacceptable,” Tester said. “I shouldn’t have to hold FSA’s feet to the fire just to get them to follow the law and do right by folks in production ag, but you better believe I’m keeping the coals hot and ready so Montana farmers don’t get left out in the cold. Disaster relief needs to make it into the pockets of these producers immediately. No more delays.”
Since September 2019, Tester has been fighting to get relief for producers in eastern Montana facing quality losses due to excessive rain and flooding in the region, and he repeatedly pushed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to use his authority to support these farmers through the existing WHIP+ guidelines. When Perdue refused, Tester used the 2019 omnibus appropriations bill to expand the WHIP+ program to include quality loss, drought and excessive moisture and increased its funding by $1.5 billion to cover the new categories.