Following Tester Pressure, USDA to Begin Making $1 Billion in Disaster Payments Covering 2018 & 2019 Crop Losses
Senator’s legislation paved the way for disaster program to provide relief to Eastern Montana farmers; he has repeatedly taken USDA to task over delays
After his aggressive two-year push, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin making more than $1 billion in payments to producers who suffered losses in 2018 and 2019 who have approved applications for the Quality Loss Adjustment Program (QLA) and for producers who have already received an initial payment through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Tester was instrumental in ensuring that these programs cover Eastern Montana producers.
"It's unacceptable how long Eastern Montana producers have waited to receive this support-which they were promised nearly two years ago-but it's good USDA is finally doing right by our farmers," said Tester. "Now USDA needs to hit the gas and get this relief into the hands of producers as soon as possible because these folks can't wait another minute for this overdue disaster assistance."
This announcement comes after Tester took the Farm Service Agency to task over further delays to QLA payments in January. The QLA program was created after Tester secured $1.5 billion for farmers facing crop losses due to extreme weather. It was created to supplement relief provided to farmers through the Wildfire, Hurricane, and Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) and came in direct response to Tester's letter to former Farm Service Administrator Richard Fordyce excoriating USDA over previous delays in rolling out quality loss payments.
Since September 2019, Tester has been fighting to get relief for producers in Eastern Montana facing quality losses due to excessive rain and flooding in the region, and he repeatedly pushed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to use his authority to support these farmers through the existing WHIP+ guidelines. When Secretary Perdue refused, Tester used the 2019 omnibus appropriations bill to expand the WHIP+ program to include quality loss, drought, and excessive moisture and increased its funding by $1.5 billion to cover the new categories, and USDA subsequently issued a disaster declaration for 17 Montana counties.
Tester was the only member of Montana's delegation to vote for the legislation containing the fix.