Traveling across North Dakota makes it clear that producers are facing tough times. There are deep ruts left by equipment as farmers struggled to harvest crops through rain and mud, and many crops still standing in fields. Lifelong farmers are saying they have never experienced conditions this bad.
Our agriculture producers are facing extreme challenges which is why, as chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Committee, I am working to:
- Provide disaster assistance under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). We secured approval for the state’s disaster designation from USDA within a week, which makes producers in these 47 counties automatically eligible for WHIP+.
- Urge USDA to issue payments for the November Market Facilitation Program (MFP) as soon as possible.
- Address staffing issues within the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to ensure USDA is able to administer these programs efficiently to best meet the needs of producers.
- Ensure the Risk Management Agency (RMA), which oversees crop insurance programs, understands the extent of the damages in farm country and is assisting adjustors in assessing the damages.
I brought USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey to the Red River Valley to hear firsthand from our producers. I also brought Martin Barbre, the Administrator of the RMA, in Minot as part of our efforts to ensure that RMA assists crop insurance adjustors in assessing damages from recent adverse weather, and helps resolve disputes quickly.
We made it clear that USDA needs to provide trade and disaster relief to producers as quickly as possible to help counter the impacts of trade uncertainty, blizzards and flooding.
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As chair of the Agriculture Appropriations Committee, I ensured that the disaster relief legislation passed by Congress in May was forward-looking to cover disasters throughout 2019. We provided USDA with funding to help producers with crop losses, including those due to flooding and snowfall, under WHIP+.
With USDA approval of our state’s request for a disaster designation, producers in 47 counties are automatically eligible for this program. Producers outside these counties may also be eligible, by supplying documentation that crops were directly impacted by a qualifying disaster.
Additionally, we’ve been working to ensure our ranchers can access assistance under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock and Livestock Indemnity Programs for losses they sustained due to weather.
Trade assistance and trade agreements
We worked with the Administration to secure another round of trade assistance and to ensure coverage for all Title I commodities, including soybeans, wheat, corn, canola and others. This agriculture assistance is vitally important for our farmers and ranchers, which is why we are urging USDA to send out the November MFP payments as soon as possible.
We also continue to make the case for finalizing trade agreements, including the phase one trade agreement with China, and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which must start in the House.
Finalizing these trade agreements will provide producers with much needed certainty because we know that ultimately, our producers want strong markets.
John Hoeven is a Republican U.S. Senator from North Dakota.