Hoeven: Appropriations Committee Votes Additional Support for FEMA, USDA Disaster Relief Programs

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today worked with his colleagues on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to ensure that federal agencies have the necessary resources to help with severe natural disasters across the country this year. Hoeven also serves on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. 


Appropriators today approved $6 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief programs as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bill. The committee report specifically cited flooding in the Upper Midwest, language added by Senator Hoeven, as well as wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other regional disasters. 

Following Hurricane Irene, FEMA implemented what the agency refers to as “immediate needs funding,” a policy used to help preserve limited disaster relief funding for immediate needs. It did not impact the individual assistance that recipients were receiving for losses from recent disasters, but raised concerns about continued support for longer term recovery and hazard mitigation projects. The additional funding approved by the committee today should give the agency the resources necessary to continue FEMA disaster relief activities. 

“As I traveled throughout North Dakota last month, I spoke with people concerned that the federal government would not have the resources for continued disaster recovery and mitigation work in our state,” Hoeven said. “We’ve worked hard on the Appropriation Committee to make sure those resources are there to help those in Minot, Bismarck, Mandan, Devils Lake and elsewhere. Also, this funding is paid for in the sense that it is included in the budget authorization contained under the Debt Ceiling Agreement.” 


Hoeven also announced today that the Appropriations Committee has approved the Fiscal Year 2012 Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill, which includes $266 million for USDA Disaster Aid programs, including the Emergency Conservation Program and the Emergency Watershed Program. These programs will help producers with debris removal and restoration of land, fencing and some repairs on buildings, grain and livestock equipment. 

In addition, the USDA appropriation included $20 million for the agency’s Water Bank Program, which could help Devils Lake and Stump Lake basin farmers with inundated farmland. Under the Water Bank Program, producers and landowners can enter into ten-year agreements to conserve wetlands in return for annual payments. 

“We are doing all we can to reduce water levels and make land in the Devils Lake Basin available for planting and harvesting once again,” Hoeven said. “In the meantime, however, we have farmers trying to keep the family farm in business. The Water Bank Program would allow some farmers to enroll flooded land in a conservation program until it can once again become productive land, benefiting both farmers and the community.”