Monday, U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., encouraged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement agricultural provisions in the Bipartisan Budget Act in a timely, transparent, and producer-friendly way.
“In order to help agriculture producers recover from recent disasters, Secretary Perdue and the Agriculture Department now have additional tools and responsibilities,” Roberts said. “We look forward to continue working closely with USDA as they implement disaster assistance and changes to permanent programs and risk management tools.”
“In the recent budget agreement, we worked together to pass legislation that provided much needed assistance for Michigan dairy farmers,” said Senator Stabenow. “It is now up to USDA to move swiftly so our farmers can get the relief they need.”
Last month, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act, which included additional support for farmers and ranchers struggling to recover from natural disasters. The law also strengthened USDA’s permanent disaster assistance programs and provided enhancements to risk management tools for cotton and dairy producers. The changes included in the Bipartisan Budget Act help set the stage for Congress to write the 2018 Farm Bill.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the Senators set expectations for USDA to implement these important changes quickly and consistently with similar programs.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Secretary Perdue:
We appreciate the support that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Department) provides to producers impacted by natural disasters. We encourage the Department’s timely, transparent, and producer-friendly implementation of the disaster authorities and assistance recently provided in Public Law 115-123, The Bipartisan Budget Act.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) should provide producers reasonable time to evaluate and sign up for programs. Disaster assistance should be administered expeditiously and consistently with comparable previous disaster programs and permanent programs authorized in the Agriculture Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill), including compliance with applicable payment limitations, adjusted gross income limits, and conservation requirements. The FSA should provide adequate staff to impacted areas, update employee training and technology resources, and minimize administrative costs during implementation.
During the program sign up period, producers should be informed that they are required to purchase two years of federal crop insurance coverage administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) or two years of coverage under the noninsured crop disaster assistance program administered by the FSA. Similar to previous disaster programs, producers should be required to purchase buy up coverage above the catastrophic level. Finally, the RMA should continue to work with producers of affected crops to expand and improve crop insurance policies.
We encourage you to keep the Senate Agriculture Committee informed of the implementation of these provisions, as well as enhancements to risk management tools for cotton and dairy producers. FSA should operate these programs, in a producer-friendly manner and consistent with the timelines in the Bipartisan Budget Act, which includes Margin Protection Program coverage for the full 2018 calendar year.