Hoeven: USDA Approves Disaster Designation for 47 Counties

Senator Hosts USDA Undersecretary Northey for Roundtable & Field Tour, Working to Ensure Timely Assistance, Address FSA Understaffing

ARGUSVILLE, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a member of the Agriculture Committee, today was informed by USDA that Secretary Sonny Perdue has approved the State of North Dakota’s request for a Secretarial disaster designation for 47 counties as a result of natural disasters in 2019, including extreme late season rainfall and the early snowstorm. Hoeven hosted Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey in the Red River Valley for a roundtable and field tour to hear directly from producers and see the impacts of flooding and an early blizzard firsthand. 

Hoeven has been working with the administration and Northey, who oversees the Farm Service Agency (FSA), to help farmers and ranchers overcome the challenges of trade uncertainty and adverse weather. To this end, the senator stressed the need to:

  • Provide trade and disaster assistance as soon as possible.
  • Address understaffing at the FSA so producers have timely access to services.
  • Secure deadline extensions under the federal crop insurance program. Farmers should contact their crop insurance agent to discuss options for a delayed harvest.
  • Ensure ranchers can access assistance under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) and Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP).

“Under Secretary Northey has been a vital partner in delivering the assistance our producers need to weather ongoing trade negotiations and disasters,” Hoeven said. “We appreciate his willingness to come to North Dakota to meet with our farmers and see the challenges they face in the field. That firsthand knowledge helps drive home the need to provide assistance under MFP and WHIP+ as soon as possible. At the same time, his visit is an opportunity to advance other important priorities, including FSA staffing, crop insurance extensions and assistance for ranchers, which we are working to address as part of our overall efforts to counter the impacts of trade uncertainty, blizzards and flooding.”

Securing Trade and Disaster Assistance

Today and in a conversation with Northey last month, Hoeven urged the Under Secretary to quickly send out the November tranche of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments as well as assistance under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+), now that the Secretarial Disaster Designation has been issued. The senator supported the State of North Dakota’s request for a disaster designation. 

The designation makes producers in these counties automatically eligible for federal disaster assistance under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Producers outside counties with a declared disaster may also be eligible, but must supply documentation establishing that crops were directly impacted by a qualifying disaster event.

This builds on Hoeven’s work as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee to provide a second round of trade assistance through MFP payments and ensure that the disaster relief legislation Congress passed in May was forward-looking to provide coverage for disasters throughout 2019.

Addressing Understaffing at USDA Agencies

The FSA is currently well below its hiring cap, leading to understaffing and potentially impacting services for producers. Accordingly, Hoeven is working with Northey and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to find ways to streamline the USDA’s hiring process and help fill agency vacancies. 

Similarly, Hoeven recently spoke with OPM Director Dale Cabaniss, urging her to approve a direct hire authority (DHA) request for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Addressing these understaffing issues at the USDA will help ensure farmers and ranchers can receive timely assistance through the local FSA and NRCS offices.