While the Midwest is still in recovery mode from recent historic weather, Congress is still trying to put together a disaster relief bill from the 2018-2019 weather events. The American Farm Bureau Federation is calling on the House to pass the Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 2157) to help farmers, ranchers, and rural communities devastated by catastrophic weather events.
“Farms across the country endured an incredibly difficult year in 2018 and the trend has continued in 2019 with challenging market prices and destructive weather conditions. Historic hurricanes Florence and Michael, as well as unprecedented wildfires, flooding and other natural disasters, devasted agricultural regions throughout the nation,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in an April 11 letter to House members.
Estimated agricultural losses in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina total nearly $5.5 billion. Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri currently estimate losses at more than $3 billion.
“Moreover, the full impact for these Midwestern farmers will likely increase as recovery efforts are still ongoing and the impact of losses continues to be calculated. For many farmers, these events have meant near complete losses,” Duvall noted.
The bill provides $3 billion for farm disaster assistance administered through USDA’s Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program, which will help farmers hurt by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 with expenses related to the loss of crops, trees, bushes, vines, milk, and harvested adulterated wine grapes. Part of the program funding will go toward the loss of peach and blueberry crops in 2017 due to extreme cold.
Additionally, the measure provides $150 million for the Rural Development Community Facilities Grant Program, which funds the development of essential community facilities in rural areas, and $500 million to help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Conservation Program.
The disaster assistance bill would also give a boost to Puerto Rico, which encountered its own humanitarian crisis from hurricanes Irma and Maria, by adding $600 million for Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico, which is not part of USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The agriculture provisions in the House bill are similar to those in the Senate disaster bill, but only the House measure currently includes disaster relief for on-farm stored commodities.
Vice President Mike Pence took an aerial tour of Iowa and said, “Hopefully by coming here and helping to tell the story again of not what happened in Iowa, but what is still happening in Iowa, we’ll see people set politics aside and come together and give Iowa, Nebraska, and the Midwest and all of the states across this country the support and disaster assistance that you deserve. ”