Ag Policy Blog

Biden Signs Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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A flooded grain elevator in 2011 on the Mississippi River. A new law for rural disasters will now allow the Small Business Administration to step in and offer disaster loans in areas that are declared as disasters and suffer significant damage. (DTN file photo)

Small businesses would have more options for disaster loans after President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a bill allowing the Small Business Administration (SBA) to step in when a community is hit with significant damages of uninsured property.

Isabella Casillas Guzman, the administrator for the Small Business Administration, said the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act would help the agency move more quickly to help rural communities during natural disasters.

"As we know too well, disasters can disproportionately impact rural communities because it is often harder for those areas to access direct federal assistance available to individuals and businesses," Guzman said.

The bill, S. 1617, allows the SBA to declare an emergency in a rural counties or communities where "significant damage" has occurred. The act defines significant damage has having uninsured losses of not less than 40% of the fair replacement value of the property or the pre-disaster market value of the damaged property, whichever is less.

The SBA can declare a disaster air in a rural area declared a presidential disaster if the state or tribal government requests a declaration from SBA, and any home, small business, private non-profit group or small agricultural cooperative has incurred significant damage.

Guzman credited Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both Democrats from New Hampshire, as well as Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine.

USTR Requests New Dairy Consultations with Canada

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Tuesday announced that the United States is requesting new dispute settlement consultations with Canada under the United States- Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) regarding Canada's dairy tariff-rate quota (TRQ) allocation measures.

The announcement came less than one month before President Biden, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador are scheduled to meet January 10 in Mexico for a summit.

"Since initiating consultations with Canada in May 2022, the United States has identified additional aspects of Canada's measures that appear to be inconsistent with Canada's obligations under the USMCA, and U.S. concerns have only increased," USTR said in a news release. "With this new request, the United States expands its challenge of Canada's dairy TRQ allocation measures to include Canada's use of a market-share approach for determining TRQ allocations. Canada applies different criteria for calculating the market share of different segments of applicants, and Canada is failing to allow importers the opportunity to fully utilize TRQ quantities. The United States continues to challenge Canada's dairy TRQ allocation measures that impose new conditions on the allocation and use of the TRQs, and that prohibit eligible applicants, including retailers, food service operators, and other types of importers, from accessing TRQ allocations. Through these measures, Canada undermines the market access that it agreed to provide in the USMCA."

"We remain very concerned by Canada's refusal to honor USMCA commitments," Tai said in the news release. "Rather than work toward meeting its obligations, Canada persists in implementing new dairy policies that are inconsistent with the USMCA, and which continue to deny U.S. workers, farmers, producers, and exporters the full benefits of market access they were initially promised. We remain steadfast in our commitment to use all tools available to enforce our trade agreements and ensure that our dairy industry can offer a wide range of high-quality American products to Canadian customers."

"Canada remains in violation of its commitments under the USMCA by not removing its trade restrictions on American dairy producers," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the USTR release. "Obtaining access to the Canadian market for U.S. producers and exporters is an important priority for this administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will continue to work in lockstep and use every tool at our disposal to achieve market access."

-Jerry Hagstrom, DTN Political Correspondent

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

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Chris Clayton can be reached at

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