U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion, as provided by Congress, to help America’s farmers and ranchers recover from hurricanes and wildfires. The funds are available as part of the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). Sign-up for the new program, authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will begin no later than July 16.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will make these disaster payments to agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as the California wildfires. The Act actually provides more than $3 billion in disaster relief by creating new programs, and expediting or enhancing payments for producers.
The new 2017 WHIP will be guided by the following principles:
- Eligibility will be limited to producers in counties that experienced hurricanes or wildfires designated as presidentially-declared disasters in 2017.
- Compensation will be determined by a producer’s individual losses rather than an average of losses for a particular area (where data is available).
- Producers who purchased higher levels of risk protection, such as crop insurance and non-insured crop disaster assistance program, will receive higher payments.
- Advance payments of up to 50 percent.
- A requirement that payment recipients obtain future risk protection.
WHIP disaster payments are being issued in addition to payments through traditional programs, some of which obtained increased funding or had amendments made by the Act to make the programs more responsive, including the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program and Livestock Indemnity Program.
During 2017, the U.S. experienced a historic year of weather-related disasters, with an economic impact totaling more than $300 billion. In total, the United States was impacted by 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events including three tropical cyclones, eight severe storms, two inland floods, a crop freeze, drought and wildfire. More than 25 million people – almost eight percent of the population – were affected by major disasters.