Hoeven: Assisting farmers and ranchers during tough times
Traveling across North Dakota makes it clear that our producers are facing tough times. There are deep ruts left by heavy equipment as farmers struggled to harvest crops through the rain and the mud, and the many crops still standing in fields because the weather has made it impossible for producers to harvest. Lifelong farmers are saying they have never experienced conditions this bad.
Our agriculture producers are facing extreme challenges after being hit with an unseasonably early blizzard on top of already wet conditions this fall. This comes on top of low commodity prices and trade uncertainty. As chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Committee, I am working to:
- Provide disaster assistance under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus. 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 as soon as possible.
- Address staffing issues within the Farm Service Agency to ensure USDA is able to administer these programs efficiently to best meet the needs of producers.
- Ensure the Risk Management Agency, which oversees crop insurance programs, understands the extent of the damages in farm country and is assisting adjusters in assessing the damages.
I hosted USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey, who oversees FSA and RMA, in the Red River Valley to see and hear firsthand from our producers about the challenges they face. I also hosted Martin Barbre, the administrator of the RMA, in Minot as part of our efforts to ensure that RMA assists crop insurance adjusters in assessing damages from recent adverse weather, and helps resolve disputes quickly.
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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.
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+.
Now that we secured approval from USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue for our state’s request for a disaster designation for 47 counties, producers in these counties are automatically eligible for this program. Producers outside counties with a declared disaster may also be eligible, but must supply documentation establishing that crops were directly impacted by a qualifying disaster event.
Additionally, we’ve been working to ensure our ranchers can access assistance under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program and Livestock Indemnity Program for losses they sustained due to weather.
At the same time, we have been working to ensure that FSA has the staff necessary to administer these important programs for our farmers. We secured funding and hiring authority for FSA to fill vacant staff positions and have urged the Office of Personnel Management to provide all available resources to FSA to assist them in filling positions.
The disaster assistance funding is important support to help counter the impacts of the severe weather that has prevented harvest and kept our farmers out of their fields during this crucial time.
Trade Assistance and Trade Agreements
Additionally, we’ve been advocating for USDA to send out the November MFP payment as soon as possible. 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, and we must make sure USDA gets payments out the door in a timely manner.
While this is important assistance, what we really need is access to markets for our producers. That’s why we also continue to make the case for finalizing trade agreements, including phase one of the 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.