Ag Funding Bill Includes $1.5 Billion In Additional Disaster Aid

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Today, Sen. John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, announced that the ag appropriations bill includes an additional $1.5 billion in disaster funding to help agriculture producers impacted by severe weather. The bill also includes a provision that makes sugar growers eligible for the payments and expands the eligibility to cover quality losses for certain crops. 

“We secured another $1.5 billion in disaster assistance for our farmers and ranchers in the Agriculture Appropriations bill. This funding is in addition to the $3 billion we secured earlier this year,” Hoeven said. “We also added provisions to make sure that our sugar producers are included and to help cover quality, excess moisture and drought losses, which is helpful for our farmers and ranchers. We not only have low commodity prices but unprecedented weather. The disaster assistance and advancing trade agreements will help to get our producers through this tough stretch.”

Farmers across the country experienced weather disaster after weather disaster. There are thousands of acres of commodities left unharvested and millions of bushels of grain that suffered from quality issues. While he’s not sure the additional funding will be enough, Hoeven said it’s an important start. 

“Obviously, it's gonna make a big difference, but when you're talking some of the things farmers have gone through including things like quality loss adjustment it takes some funding to cover that,” he said on the DC Signal to Noise podcast. “The impact out there has been very significant due to this weather, and it's not done.”

Here are some critical details about the funding and program changes:

  • There is $1.5 billion in disaster assistance, which is being reprogrammed from unspent fiscal year 2017 disaster funding. 
  • It requires USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to make disaster payments to eligible sugar cooperatives.
  • The program expands loss coverage by authorizing USDA to cover quality losses, in addition to production losses.
  • It clarifies eligible disaster events by including losses related to excess moisture and D3 drought.

 The program changes will cover disasters that occurred in 2018 and 2019. That’s why drought coverage was a critical component, according to Hoeven. Additionally, he says implementation of the program changes should be swift. 

“They should be able to get going on it right away,” he said. “That's why I worked to get the additional $1.5 billion, but we've also got the provisions I just outlined to give USDA and FSA direction on how to implement the assistance in a way that will help our producers.”

The House is expected to vote on the FY2020 Agriculture Appropriates funding bill on Tuesday, with the Senate following later this week. 

“Remember our producers. I mean, it's not just this really tough weather they've had but it's the low commodity prices and the issues with trade,” he said. “So it takes more than just the disaster assistance; it’s the MFP, but it's also these trade agreements that we're starting to get now that I hope will help us turn things around.” 

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