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USDA to dole out $6B to producers affected by 2020 & 2021 natural disasters

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If you are a commodity or specialty crop producer who experienced losses due to natural disasters in 2020 and 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released gobs of new money that could help. The emergency relief payments totaling approximately $6 billion through the Farm Service Agency’s new Emergency Relief Program will be doled out to offset crop and yield value losses.

This can be done because on September 30, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, which includes $10 billion in assistance to agricultural producers impacted by wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, winter storms, and other eligible disasters experienced during calendar years 2020 and 2021. FSA recently made payments to ranchers impacted by drought and wildfire through the first phase of the Emergency Livestock Relief Program. The Emergency Relief Program is another relief component of the Act.

For impacted producers, existing Federal Crop Insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program data is the basis for calculating initial payments. The USDA estimates that phase one ERP benefits will reach more than 220,000 producers who received indemnities for losses covered by federal crop insurance and more than 4,000 producers who obtained NAP coverage for 2020 and 2021 crop losses.

“For over two years, farmers and ranchers across the country have been hard hit by an ongoing pandemic coupled with more frequent and catastrophic natural disasters,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “As the agriculture industry deals with new challenges and stressors, we at USDA look for opportunities to inject financial support back into the rural economy through direct payments to producers who bear the brunt of circumstances beyond their control. These emergency relief payments will help offset the significant crop losses due to major weather events in 2020 and 2021 and help ensure farming operations are viable this crop year, into the next growing season and beyond.”

ERP Eligibility: Phase One

ERP covers losses to crops, trees, bushes, and vines due to a qualifying natural disaster event in calendar years 2020 and 2021. Eligible crops include all crops for which crop insurance or NAP coverage was available, except for crops intended for grazing. Qualifying natural disaster events include wildfires, hurricanes, floods, derechos, excessive heat, winter storms, freeze (including a polar vortex), smoke exposure, excessive moisture, qualifying drought, and related conditions.

For drought, ERP assistance is available if any area within the county in which the loss occurred was rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as having a:

  • D2 (severe drought) for eight consecutive weeks; or
  • D3 (extreme drought) or higher level of drought intensity.

Lists of 2020 and 2021 drought counties eligible for ERP is available on the emergency relief website.

To streamline and simplify the delivery of ERP phase one benefits, FSA will send pre-filled application forms to producers where crop insurance and NAP data are already on file. This form includes eligibility requirements, outlines the application process and provides ERP payment calculations. Producers will receive a separate application form for each program year in which an eligible loss occurred. Receipt of a pre-filled application is not confirmation that a producer is eligible to receive an ERP phase one payment.

Additionally, producers must have the certain forms on file with FSA within 60 days of the ERP phase one deadline, which will later be announced by the FSA’s Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs. Most producers, especially those who have previously participated in FSA programs, will likely have these required forms on file. However, those who are uncertain or want to confirm the status of their forms can contact their local FSA county office.

Emergency Relief: Phase Two (Crop and Livestock Producers)

Today’s announcement is only phase one of relief for commodity and specialty crop producers. Making the initial payments using existing safety net and risk management data will both speed implementation and further encourage participation in these permanent programs, such as Federal crop insurance, as Congress intended.

The second phase of both ERP and ELRP programs will fill gaps and cover producers who did not participate in or receive payments through the existing programs that are being leveraged for phase one implementation. When phase one payment processing is complete, the remaining funds will be used to cover gaps identified under phase two.

Through proactive communication and outreach, the USDA will keep producers and stakeholders informed as program details are made available. More information on ERP can be found in the Notice of Funding Availability.

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