Producers affected by the Gering-Ft. Laramie-Goshen irrigation tunnel collapse in July will be able to recoup losses through federal crop insurance, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials decided.

The decision was praised by Nebraska and Wyoming congressional delegates who had submitted a letter urging such action to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., stated that Perdue knows just how important Nebraska’s agriculture producers are to the nation and commended the quick response.

In the statement released by the USDA, Perdue said the Risk Management Agency has determined that since the collapse happened due to a natural cause – above normal rainfall – it will be an insurable event for those affected by the irrigation disruption.

“This is great news and it’s exactly what we’ve been fighting for,” Sasse said. “The USDA did the right thing by covering this loss and preventing a bunch of bankruptcies in the Panhandle. It’s the honest thing to do.”

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., agreed. A member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Fischer said she thanked Perdue and the USDA for working with Nebraska and Wyoming to mitigate the effects of this irrigation disruption.

“I appreciate the Risk Management Agency making the determination that the irrigation tunnel collapse is an insurable event,” she said. “Because of this decision, Nebraska agricultural producers submitting claims for production and prevented planting losses will have more certainty about how this will be treated under their crop insurance policies.”

Risk Management Agency administrator Martin R. Barbre stated the RMA will reinsure, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement, production and prevented planting losses if the approved insurance providers pay the full amount of the claims to producers in accordance with the provisions of their 2019 crop policies.

“We are extremely pleased and greatly appreciate the USDA RMA announcement that federal crop insurance will cover crop losses resulting from the tunnel collapse that stopped irrigation flows to farms on the Gering-Ft Laramie Irrigation District in Nebraska,” Nebraska Farm Bureau president Steve Nelson said. “This is great news for many farmers who have faced an extremely challenging growing season due to unfortunate circumstances well beyond their control.”

Craig Head, vice president in charge of issue management for Nebraska Farm Bureau stated that the organization was one of many voices that had encouraged the USDA to ensure these losses were covered.

“This announcement is critical in eliminating the uncertainty that has existed for many of the farmers impacted,” he said. “We are grateful this piece of what continues to be an ongoing and challenging situation has been positively resolved.”

According to Peter Wood of the USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area, the agency will not know the full impact of the loss of irrigation water until after the crop is harvested later this year. Therefore, they do not have preliminary figures for insurance indemnities to date, he said.

“Our farmers have been put through the ringer and still have a long way to go, but this is a huge relief for Nebraska agriculture,” Sasse said.

Jon Burleson can be reached at jon.burleson@lee.net

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