OMAHA (DTN) -- Farmers hit by natural disasters in 2018 or this year that were designated as presidential disaster or USDA disaster areas will be able to sign up Wednesday for aid at their local USDA offices under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus.
The WHIP+ focuses only on crops and does not include livestock losses. The program will provide aid for production losses and cover from 75% to 95% of losses, depending on crop insurance coverage or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance policies. Farmers who did not insure crops will receive 70% of the expected value of the crop.
The disaster aid covers hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanoes, snowstorms or wildfires that occurred in 2018 or 2019. Farmers in the Southeast who may have been hit with damages over the past week from Hurricane Dorian will also be included in the WHIP+ enrollment, USDA stated.
The WHIP+ will also cover losses under the On-Farm Storage Loss Program for farmers who had commodities stored on their farms, such as producers who saw grain bins destroyed when rapid flooding hit the Missouri River Basin in mid-March. This would include farmers who lost hay stored on farms. Payments would amount to 75% of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) crop values for 2018.
"We're assuming most of that grain that was stored and damaged, primarily with the bomb cyclone in March, was probably 2018 grain," Fordyce said.
There are some caveats to payments because the $3 billion disaster package approved by Congress in June covered agricultural disasters for 2018 and 2019. Farmers who were affected by 2018 disasters, such as hurricanes Florence and Michael, as well as California wildfires, will be eligible for 100% of their payments.
Yet, WHIP+ payments for 2019 disasters will be limited to an initial 50% of their value with the possibility of receiving the other 50% of their payments after Jan. 1, 2020, "if sufficient funding remains," USDA stated.
"For 2018, some of those producers have been waiting a long time for some of this recovery to get out to them, so the thought is let's go ahead and get them paid what the program allows for them to be paid," Fordyce said. "The 50% for 2019 just allows us to manage the funds' availability of the program. We don't know what's yet to come."
Fordyce said he did not know whether Congress would provide more aid for the 2019 disasters, but he said it was a good management strategy for USDA to see "what kind of exposure we have in 2019 because we just frankly don't know."
With Farm Service Agency showing prevented planting acres at 19.6 million for 2019, the disaster bill included language to enhance prevented planting payments. While USDA officials said Monday the provisions in the disaster aid package for prevented planting will come later, the news release stated all farmers with prevented planting claims for 2019 will receive a "bonus" payment equal to 10% of their prevented planting indemnity, plus an additional 5% for farmers who bought the harvest price option coverage.
"Those provisions (on prevented planting) are not completed yet at this point but expect to have some announcement on the prevent plant provisions of the legislation here very soon," Fordyce said.
According to DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said after a speech Monday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that some parts of the disaster program could change because of disagreements with the White House Office of Management and Budget. Fordyce indicated talks with OMB have been completed.
"We have been in conversation with OMB on the rule," Fordyce said. "It's our belief that negotiation has happened and that maybe there will be no changes to what we have talked about this morning."
WHIP+ will pay a maximum of $125,000 per individual, unless a farmer shows that at least 75% of their income is derived from farm production, in which case the payment limit could increase to $250,000. Disaster losses will be paid for 2018 and 2019 losses, so a farmer who makes more than 75% of their income from farming could be eligible for up to $500,000 in payments for multiple-year losses. Payment rules also differ for farmers who are in a joint venture or general partnership.
"If you think about some of the losses that have been experienced by producers, not only through the Market Facilitation Program, and lost value in the marketplace, but also with the disaster recovery, I think this is more commiserate with some of the losses that some of our producers across the country have experienced," Fordyce said.
OTHER LOSSES COVERED
Dairy farmers who were forced to dump milk because of 2018 or 2019 disasters will be covered under the Milk Loss Program.
The 2017 WHIP disaster relief also will expand to cover losses from Tropical Storm Cindy, as well as peach and blueberry crop losses that were hit with extreme cold.
WHIP+ will also cover prevented planting disaster assistance for farmers who were uninsured for prevented planting claims under the 2018 crop year and 2019 crops that had a final planting date before Jan. 1, 2019.
Farmers who want more information are encouraged to visit their local USDA service center or go to the website:
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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