Hoeven Leads Effort Requesting GAO Review of USDA's 2022 Disaster Assistance Implementation

Senator Worked to Secure Broad-Based Assistance for Producers, Has Been Pressing USDA to Roll Back Changes That Limit ERP Effectiveness

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, this week led a group of senators in requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s implementation of disaster assistance for producer losses occurring in 2022. This builds upon a recent effort Hoeven led with House Agriculture Appropriations Committee Chairman Andy Harris (R-Md.) urging USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to roll back the agency’s changes to the Emergency Relief Program (ERP) 2022. The changes made by USDA run counter to statute and Congressional intent, while undermining the effectiveness and reach of the $3.7 billion that Hoeven worked to secure to help farmers and ranchers recover from natural disasters.

“In the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, Congress included $3.7 billion for USDA to assist farmers and ranchers impacted by natural disasters in 2022. Our intent was for the Department to administer the program in a manner consistent with the previous iteration of ERP and its predecessor program, the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Both programs were generally well received and should have served as the template for a 2022 disaster program,” wrote the senators. “Unfortunately, several policy changes made by USDA run counter to our intent to provide assistance fairly to all producers based on their loss.”

The senators specifically requested that GAO review USDA’s decision to:

  • Apply 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.
  • Provide a crop insurance premium reimbursement only to a select group of 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.

In addition to Hoeven, the letter is co-signed by Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Senators Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.). The full text of the letter can be found here.