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USDA Opens Disaster Assistance For Montana Farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the Farm Service Agency will open signups for disaster assistance on March 23 for producers, including sugar beet growers, to apply for eligible losses of drought (D3 or above) and excessive moisture. The move follows months of efforts by U.S. Senator Jon Tester on behalf of Montana farmers in Eastern Montana.

The announcement came on the heels of an update to the WHIP+ program that was secured by Senator Tester in December following months of efforts to get USDA to provide relief for Montana producers. Tester’s fix ensures that farmers facing quality loss, drought and excessive moisture qualify for support through WHIP+ and it increases funding for the program by $1.5 billion to cover these new categories. Tester was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for the legislation containing the fix.

Following the USDA’s disaster declaration for 17 Montana counties in February, Tester sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging him to quickly implement the new provisions of WHIP+ and determine criteria and payment rates for producers in order to bring them certainty for the 2020 growing season.

“Secretary Perdue sure walked around the block to cross the street on getting this assistance to Montana producers, but I’m glad he’s finally doing his job and making support available to farmers,” said Tester. “Congress ordered USDA to get its act together and provide these folks with some relief because it’s absolutely critical Montana’s family farmers have the certainty they need to thrive and continue growing the food that feeds our nation.

The 17 counties covered by the disaster declaration are: Cascade, Chouteau, Pondera, Glacier, Teton, Dawson, Prairie, Toole, McCone, Richland, Roosevelt, Wibaux, Daniels, Rosebud, Sheridan, Treasure and Valley.

According to the USDA, in order to be eligible for WHIP+, producers must have suffered losses of certain crops, trees, bushes or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only) for the following named natural disaster events; hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, wildfires, and now excessive moisture that occurred in 2018 or 2019. Also, losses located in a county not designated by Secretary Perdue as a primary county may be eligible if the producer provides documentation showing that the loss was due to a qualifying natural disaster event.

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