MANDAN, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven, Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, this week is holding meetings in North Dakota with senior officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assess drought conditions and gather input from agriculture producers.
Hoeven hosted both Risk Management Agency (RMA) Acting Administrator Richard Flournoy and Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Zach Ducheneaux, whom the senator invited to the state to ensure the agency heads have firsthand knowledge of the situation and to help inform farmers and ranchers of the resources available.
Hoeven, Flournoy and Ducheneaux discussed the following assistance and flexibilities that are available to assist producers, to date:
Available Emergency Assistance
· Emergency Grazing – Producers in 50 North Dakota counties are currently eligible for emergency grazing of CRP acres at limited capacity.
· Livestock Forage Program – Provides payments to livestock owners for feed costs, up to 60 percent of the total monthly cost. Producers in 50 North Dakota counties are currently eligible.
· Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) – Provides assistance to livestock producers for losses not covered by other disaster programs, including assistance for the cost of hauling water to livestock.
Further, Hoeven outlined efforts to secure additional disaster assistance, including:
· Urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to allow both emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in North Dakota before August 1.
o CRP acres in 50 North Dakota counties are currently eligible to be grazed at limited capacity, they are not eligible to be hayed.
o In a recent letter to Vilsack, Hoeven led the delegation in stressing the risk of poor forage conditions if producers wait until the required date to hay.
· Pressing RMA to work with approved insurance providers to ensure quick and fair crop adjustments and payments.
“Our producers are facing historic drought conditions, which impact every corner of the state, with the majority of counties in the extreme drought category or worse,” said Hoeven. “It is critical that Administrators Flournoy and Ducheneaux are here in North Dakota to hear about these challenges directly from our producers. This is not only an opportunity to ensure farmers and ranchers can access the available assistance, but also helps inform our continued efforts to strengthen the federal emergency response and provide support when it is needed most.”
As Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, Hoeven has worked to provide strong support for programs in annual funding legislation to ensure assistance is available to producers when needed most.
WHIP+ & QLA
This week’s meetings follow Hoeven’s efforts to finalize the Quality Loss Adjustment (QLA) program and the Wildfire, Hurricane and Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). The senator is urging USDA to send out the recently-announced payments to producers as soon as possible, which will cover their full QLA payments and additional WHIP+ payments covering 90% of 2019 indemnities as a result.
Prior to this, Hoeven secured funding and eligibility for the programs, including:
· $1.5 billion for WHIP+, along with authorization to establish the QLA program, including coverage for excess moisture and D3 drought in FY2020.
· $1.5 billion for QLA and WHIP+ in FY 2021 Agriculture Appropriations to ensure program funding to meet the demand from producers who were impacted by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019.
Producers affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 were eligible to apply for QLA, which covers losses from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, wildfires, drought and excessive moisture. Additional information on QLA and WHIP+ is available from USDA at www.farmers.gov.