FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sara Robertson (Sara.Robertson2@mail.house.gov)
Rep. Crawford Demands Answers from USDA on Disaster Relief Aid for Farmers
Washington — Today, Representative Rick Crawford (AR-01) sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, requesting an imminent update on USDA’s plans to implement disaster assistance enacted into law last Fall.
In June 2021, Arkansas farmers suffered catastrophic losses due to significant flooding in the Southeast region of the state. Financial assistance appeared to be on the horizon with the passage of the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 117-43), which included $6.28 billion for USDA’s Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+), in September 2021. Along with the aid, the legislation also required USDA to submit a report to Congress no later than January 28th, 2022 outlining the type, amount, and method of assistance by state and territory. As of today, such a report hasn’t been provided.
USDA officials continue to state that farmers will see this money in the near future. Agriculture producers had been told the application process for this relief money would begin in March. In a Congressional hearing, Secretary Vilsack doubled down on this timeline and stated that farmers would likely see disaster payments in their bank accounts in March or April.
“For months, this administration has assured the agriculture community and Congress that critical financial assistance for producers would be forthcoming. While USDA drags their feet, input costs and prices have put producers into an even more precarious situation. Farmers deserve certainty to ensure they do not face the second disaster of bankruptcy and that they are able to continue their work of feeding and clothing the world at a time when threats of food shortages loom,” said Rep. Crawford.
Full text of the letter can be found below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I write to you after receiving much feedback from agriculture producers in Southeast Arkansas who experienced devastation from floods in June 2021. Congress passed and President Biden signed into law legislation that included assistance for farmers. Approximately 170,000 acres in Southeast Arkansas were underwater so long they were rendered unplantable. Our farmers have taken it on the chin through no fault of their own. Yet, they continue working to produce the food and fiber that feeds and clothes the world.
On September 30, 2021, President Biden signed into law the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 117-43), which included $6.28 billion for USDA’s Wildfire and Hurricane, Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). This was welcome news to my constituents, as well as other producers across the country who experienced losses due to natural disasters, as past iterations of WHIP+ have been a lifeline during times of loss.
The law required USDA to submit a report to Congress no later than 120 days after the end of Fiscal Year 2021, which would have been January 28, 2022, “specifying the type, amount, and method of such assistance by state and territory.” To my knowledge, no such report has been submitted. My constituents in the devastation zone were told that the application process would be announced in March and in a hearing before the House Agriculture Committee on January 20, 2022, you stated that producers would likely see disaster assistance payments for 2020 and 2021 losses in April or May.
I strongly urge you to expedite the opening of the application process so that producers can access disaster assistance in a timely manner. With record input costs, those that suffered losses over the past two years are facing significant financial challenges. If the disaster aid does not arrive quickly, many may face the disaster of bankruptcy.
Please provide me an update on when USDA will release application dates and, ultimately, payments to producers.
MEMBER OF CONGRESS