USDA Resources Available for Farmers Hurt by Disasters

Extreme weather has landed one blow after another to farmers this growing season.

To provide some relief, the USDA is offering a $3 billion package to help farmers affected by natural disasters, including the flooding and excess rains that have hammered South Dakota. Farmers in 58 South Dakota counties who suffered crop damage or prevented plant losses because of flooding, excessive rain or high winds are eligible for assistance.

Eligible South Dakota counties include: Aurora, Beadle, Bennett, Bon Homme, Brookings, Brown, Brule, Buffalo, Campbell, Charles Mix, Clark, Clay, Codington, Davison, Day, Deuel, Dewey, Douglas, Edmunds, Fall River, Faulk, Grant, Gregory, Hamlin, Hand, Hanson, Hughes, Hutchinson, Hyde, Jackson, Jerauld, Jones, Kingsbury, Lake, Lincoln, Lyman, McCook, McPherson, Marshall, Mellette, Miner, Minnehaha, Moody, Oglala Lakota, Pennington, Perkins, Potter, Roberts, Sanborn, Spink, Sully, Todd, Tripp, Turner, Union, Walworth, Yankton and Ziebach.

The signup for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) is now open, so contact your local USDA Service Center.

Although the title of the program focuses on wildfires and hurricanes, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue pointed out that it also encompasses floods, tornadoes, snowstorms and typhoons.

“U.S. agriculture has been dealt a hefty blow by extreme weather over the last several years, and 2019 is no exception,” Perdue said. “The scope of this year’s prevented planting alone is devastating, and although these disaster program benefits will not make producers whole, we hope the assistance will ease some of the financial strain farmers, ranchers and their families are experiencing.”

WHIP+ will be available for eligible producers who have suffered eligible losses of certain crops, trees, bushes or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation. Farmers in counties that didn’t receive a disaster declaration or designation may still apply for WHIP+ but must provide supporting documentation that their crops were directly affected by a disaster loss.

Also, prevented planting supplemental disaster payments will provide support to producers who were prevented from planting eligible crops for the 2019 crop year.

Scott Stahl of Emery, vice president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, said the prevented plant acres in this state are widespread. He was able to plant 30 to 40 percent of his corn and soybeans and estimates the multi-county area around him is only about 20 percent planted. In a year like this, any assistance is appreciated.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about cash flow,” Stahl said about these program payments.

Stahl said the program helps even things out for farmers who weren’t able to plant crops. Those who were able to plant were eligible for payments as high as $70 an acre through the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) while farmers who couldn’t plant anything didn’t receive any MFP payments. Those who could plant a cover crop were eligible for a $15 an acre MFP payment but many parts of the state were too wet to even do that.

All producers with flooding or excess moisture-related prevented planting insurance claims in calendar year 2019 will receive a prevented planting supplemental disaster (“bonus”) payment equal to 10 percent of their prevented planting indemnity, plus an additional 5 percent will be provided to those who purchased harvest price option coverage.

The WHIP+ package also includes new programs to cover losses for milk dumped or removed from the commercial market and losses of eligible farm-stored commodities. Because grazing and livestock losses, other than milk losses, are covered by other disaster recovery programs offered through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), those losses are not eligible for WHIP+.

Eligible crops include those for which federal crop insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NCDAP) coverage is available, excluding crops intended for grazing. A WHIP+ factor will be determined for each crop based on a producer’s coverage level. Producers who elected higher coverage levels will receive a higher WHIP+ factor.

The WHIP+ payment factor ranges from 75 percent to 95 percent, depending on the level of crop insurance coverage or NAP coverage that a producer obtained for the crop. Producers who did not insure their crops in 2018 or 2019 will receive 70 percent of the expected value of the crop. Insured crops (either crop insurance or NAP coverage) will receive between 75 percent and 95 percent of expected value; those who purchased the highest levels of coverage will receive 95 percent of the expected value.

WHIP+ benefits will be subject to a payment limitation of either $125,000 or $250,000 per crop year, depending upon their verified average adjusted gross income. A person, other than a joint venture or general partnership, cannot receive more than $125,000 in payments under WHIP, if their average adjusted gross farm income is less than 75 percent of their average adjusted gross income for 2015, 2016 and 2017. However, if at least 75 percent of the person’s average AGI is derived from farming, ranching or forestry, the person, other than a joint venture or general partnership, is eligible to receive, directly or indirectly, up to $250,000 per crop year in WHIP+ payments.

Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for WHIP+. But all producers receiving WHIP+ payments will be required to purchase crop insurance or NAP, at the 60 percent coverage level or higher, for the next two available, consecutive crop years.

Producers who suffered losses of harvested commodities, including hay, stored in on-farm structures will receive assistance through the On-Farm Storage Loss Program.

 

 

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