Hoeven, Harris Urge Ag Secretary to Revise 2022 Disaster Relief Policies, Ensure Broad-Based Assistance

Ranking Member and Chairman of Senate & House Ag Appropriations Push Back on Policies Limiting Disaster Aid, Shortchanging Producers with Worst Losses

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) this week urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reconsider policies that will limit the effectiveness of disaster relief that Congress provided to agriculture producers for losses occurring in 2022. In their roles as ranking member and chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Committees in the Senate and House, Hoeven and Harris worked to secure more than $3.7 billion in annual funding legislation to help farmers and ranchers recover from natural disasters, mirroring assistance provided under the Emergency Relief Program (ERP) in 2020 and 2021.

However, under ERP 2022, USDA made significant changes to the program that run counter to statute and Congressional intent, including:

  • Applying a “progressive” payment factor that penalizes the producers with the largest losses.
    • In 2020 and 2021, ERP utilized a flat payment factor, which ensured producers were reimbursed at the same rate regardless of losses.
  • Providing a crop insurance premium reimbursement only to socially-disadvantaged, limited-resource, beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers.
    • In contrast, statute requires that USDA provide a crop insurance premium reimbursement to all producers receiving ERP assistance, as was done under previous iterations of the program.

“Farmers and ranchers faced a myriad of weather-related challenges in 2022. Wildfires, hurricanes, drought and other natural disasters caused billions in losses for American producers,” wrote Hoeven and Harris. “We are deeply concerned about recent program modifications announced for ERP 2022. This includes the department’s decision to reimburse crop insurance premiums for only a select group of producers. Congress intended for all producers to receive a premium reimbursement, which is clear from a plain reading of the statute… Additionally, the application of a ‘progressive’ payment factor is well outside of Congressional intent and a significant departure from program precedent.

“This is unacceptable and well outside of our expectations for program administration. A perceived lack of resources is not justification to ignore statutory requirements and Congressional intent. Left unchanged, these provisions will severely limit the effectiveness of ERP and leave producers shortchanged at a time when they can least afford it.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.