USDA says $800 million is ready for some Alabama, Florida and Georgia producers affected by hurricanes Michael and Florence last year.
The $800 million in state block grants is part of the broader $3 billion Supplemental Disaster Relief Act of 2019 passed by Congress in June, which is designed to help producers recover from the 2018 and 2019 natural disasters through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus, or WHIP+, as well as programs for loss of milk and stored commodities.
USDA and the governor’s office in Florida and the state departments of agriculture in the other two states are working out final details for the grants, which will cover qualifying losses not covered by other USDA disaster programs. The funding will cover losses of timber, cattle, poultry, as well as for necessary expenses related to losses of horticulture crops and present value losses associated with pecan production.
In an interview Nov. 8 with Southeast Farm Press, Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue would like to have the agreements finalized by Thanksgiving. After the agreements are signed by state officials and Perdue, the states will administer their specific block grants.
Fordyce said specific funding details, sign-up procedures and additional information will be forthcoming soon after the agreements are signed.
“The block grant program is a way for us to engage with producers through states administering a program that covers agricultural production that is not covered by any other program. So whether it’s the WHIP-plus program, the standing disaster program that we have at FSA or other kinds of programs the block grant is a way to address producers losses that are not covered by any other program,” Fordyce said.
For covered commodities, FSA opened signup for WHIP+ in September and has since distributed millions of dollars in assistance to producers throughout the country to help with recovery. Signup for the program continues into 2020. USDA crop insurance programs paid in 2018 indemnities of $489 million to producers affected by the hurricanes that devastated the Southeast.
Farmers affected by flooding and excess moisture in 2019 have received assistance through the prevented planting provisions in their crop insurance policies. So far this year, producers have reported they were prevented from planting on nearly 20 million acres, a modern record. Indemnities from crop insurance have surpassed $4 billion this year, with almost $3.9 billion of that going to producers unable to plant because of flooding or excess moisture.
The Disaster Relief Act also authorized a “top-up” payment for producers who made prevented planting claims. USDA has distributed through producers’ Approved Insurance Providers nearly $570 million in top-up payments. Additional payments will be made in the middle of each month as more prevented planting claims are processed.