The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging senators to pass a disaster funding bill that would help farmers, ranchers and rural communities devastated by catastrophic weather events.
“Farms across the country endured an incredibly difficult year in 2018, and the trend continues in 2019 with challenging market prices and destructive weather conditions. Historic Hurricanes Florence and Michael, along with unprecedented wildfires, flooding and other natural disasters devasted agricultural regions throughout the nation,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a March 27 letter to senators.
Estimated agricultural losses in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina total nearly $5.5 billion. Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri currently estimate losses at more than $3 billion.
“The full impact for these Midwestern farmers will only increase, however, as the recovery efforts are ongoing and losses continue to be calculated,” Duvall noted.
The bill provides $3 billion for farm disaster assistance administered through the Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program, which will help farmers hurt by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 with expenses related to the loss of crops, trees, bushes, vines, milk and harvested adulterated wine grapes. Part of the program funding will go toward agricultural losses from Tropical Storm Cindy and losses of peach and blueberry crops in 2017 due to extreme cold.
Additionally, the measure provides $150 million for the Rural Development Community Facilities Grant Program, which funds the development of essential community facilities in rural areas.
The disaster assistance bill would also give a boost to Puerto Rico, which encountered its own humanitarian crisis from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, by adding $600 million for Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico, which is not part of USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Senators voted on March 26 to invoke cloture (limit time for debate) on the measure, so the chamber is likely to vote on passage in the near future. House and Senate lawmakers are expected to eventually conference on a disaster assistance measure both chambers will approve and send to President Trump for his signature.