News Releases

ICYMI: Senator Murray, Representative DelBene, Western State Lawmakers Push for More Relief Following Historic Wildfires, Droughts, Heat – MORE HERE

Lawmakers: “We write to urge you to utilize the full eligibilities provided in the statute to assist producers in our states hit hard by extreme heat, drought, wildfires, smoke exposure, and related crop quality losses”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), and Dan Newhouse (WA-04), led a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling on U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take all statutory eligibilities into account when distributing the $10 billion in aid to agricultural producers hit hard by extreme heat, drought, and wildfires this summer. The $10 billion in agricultural aid was included in the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, which was passed and became law in September.

“Congress provided $10 billion to cover qualifying losses experienced by agricultural producers as part of H.R.5305, the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) works to swiftly implement the program, we write to urge you to utilize the full eligibilities provided in the statute to assist producers in our states hit hard by extreme heat, drought, wildfires, smoke exposure, and related crop quality losses,” the lawmakers wrote. “Additionally, we request that USDA offer guidance as soon as practicable on what types of documentation will be needed for farmers so that they can be ready and able to access this assistance.”

In July of this year, many of the lawmakers writing to Secretary Vilsack urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to open relief programs up to more producers that have lost crops and livestock to the droughts, extreme heat, and wildfires across the Pacific Northwest this summer. As part of the agricultural assistance included in the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, the lawmakers were able to secure that increased flexibility on who is eligible for the relief funds, so that agricultural producers who suffered heat-related crop, livestock, or shellfish losses and were not previously eligible could receive relief funds.

“A number of us wrote to you in July regarding the extreme heat, drought, low soil moisture, and wildfires the Pacific Northwest experienced this summer, with temperatures reaching as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. As we mentioned then, many of the producers who suffered some of the greatest heat-related losses—scorched fruit, damaged canes, increased shellfish mortality—were either located in counties not covered by the drought designations, experienced losses not covered by drought assistance programs, or both,” the lawmakers continued. “To better address the extent of these losses, Congress provided new flexibilities in H.R.5305 to amend the previous Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus (WHIP+) authorization, including coverage for losses related to excessive heat and smoke exposure for wine grapes—and inclusive of crop quality loss and damage to on-farm stored commodities.

The letter is signed by Senators Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) as well as Representatives Suzan K. DelBene (WA-01), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Adam Smith (WA-09), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamie Herrera Beutler (WA-03), and Rick Larsen (WA-02).

Read the full letter HERE and below.

 

October 19, 2021

The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack
Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

 

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

Thank you for your continued work to deliver relief to our farmers, ranchers, Tribes, and communities in the Pacific Northwest impacted by severe weather events. To support those efforts, Congress provided $10 billion to cover qualifying losses experienced by agricultural producers as part of H.R.5305, the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) works to swiftly implement the program, we write to urge you to utilize the full eligibilities provided in the statute to assist producers in our states hit hard by extreme heat, drought, wildfires, smoke exposure, and related crop quality losses. Additionally, we request that USDA offer guidance as soon as practicable on what types of documentation will be needed for farmers so that they can be ready and able to access this assistance.

A number of us wrote to you in July regarding the extreme heat, drought, low soil moisture, and wildfires the Pacific Northwest experienced this summer, with temperatures reaching as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. As we mentioned then, many of the producers who suffered some of the greatest heat-related losses—scorched fruit, damaged canes, increased shellfish mortality—were either located in counties not covered by the drought designations, experienced losses not covered by drought assistance programs, or both. To better address the extent of these losses, Congress provided new flexibilities in H.R.5305 to amend the previous Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus (WHIP+) authorization, including coverage for losses related to excessive heat and smoke exposure for wine grapes—and inclusive of crop quality loss and damage to on-farm stored commodities.

As USDA drafts guidelines for the new program, we ask that you work with producers to include temperature-based thresholds for eligibility to capture heat-related losses, similar to extreme temperature models utilized in the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program. This will be critical for berry crops, shellfish, tree fruits, potatoes, dairy products, and beef cattle in parts of the Pacific Northwest which suffered some of the greatest yield and quality losses as a result of the severe heat wave, but may not operate in counties covered by D3 or 8-week D2 drought designations.

We urge prompt implementation of this critical assistance and appreciate your continued work to deliver relief to our agricultural producers in the Pacific Northwest impacted by severe weather events. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

###