USDA provides more help for farmers hurt by 2018, 2019 disasters

A farmer rides in a tractor through his field. (Source: MGN Image/Scott Stewart/ DoD)
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WTVY) -- Monday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that agricultural producers affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 can apply for assistance through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Signup for this U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program began Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019.

The announcement was made at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico. NASDA represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories.

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate said, “It was an honor to be present when Secretary Perdue made this announcement. We appreciate this much-needed disaster relief program focused on farmers impacted by natural disasters. These past two years, farmers and rural communities have experienced tremendous losses.”

According to Perdue, “U.S. agriculture has been dealt a hefty blow by extreme weather over the last several years, and 2019 is no exception.” He continued, “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.”

More than $3 billion is available through the disaster relief package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in early June. WHIP+ builds on the successes of its predecessor program the 2017 Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). 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 eligible 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.

Eligibility
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 receive 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.

Alabama counties that received qualifying disaster declarations and designations for damage that occurred in 2018 only include: Barbour, Calhoun, Clarke, Cullman, Dale, DeKalb, Etowah, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Mobile, Pike, St. Clair, and Washington. Counties eligible for damage suffered in 2019 only include: Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, DeKalb, Franklin, Greene, Jackson, Lamar, Madison, Marion, Morgan, Pike, St. Clair, and Winston. 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+. A provision is also included for agricultural losses due to Tropical Storm Cindy in 2017. Counties designated as primary disaster areas from Cindy include: Baldwin, Cherokee, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Hale, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe, Talladega and Washington.

Commissioner Pate encourages farmers to learn eligibility details, payment limitations, and future insurance coverage requirements of WHIP+. For more information on FSA disaster assistance programs, please contact your local USDA service center or visit farmers.gov/recover/whip-plus. For all available USDA disaster assistance programs, go to USDA’s disaster resources website farmers.gov/recover.