Montana Ag Network: Tester asks for fix to farm disaster program

by Lane Nordlund

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at the beginning of the year announced support for farmers impacted by extreme weather in 2018 and 2019.

The funding comes through USDA’s Quality Loss Adjustment Program (QLA) providing $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+).

Since September 2019, Sen. Jon Tester has been working to get relief for producers in Eastern Montana facing quality losses due to excessive rain and flooding in the region during harvest.

“The fact is, Northeastern Montana got hammered by untimely moisture during harvest,” said Tester. “Everybody in agriculture knows we need rain all the time, but not during Harvest. That’s the worst time to get.”

Sen. Tester announced that he is disappointed that feed wheat is currently not eligible for QLA assistance. He is now calling on USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to correct what he calls an “error” in the guidelines.

“The FSA has said that unless we have a test that shows that the crop is feed wheat, we’re not going to support it,” said Tester. “In other words, they want a sample of grain sent to them, get the grade back and have it say feed wheat.”

Getting a grade on feed wheat is not typical. Under existing QLA guidelines, to qualify for funding, producers must submit quality discount settlement documentation, which is not often issued for feed wheat.

“Without documentation, this means that the producers who need QLA the most are unable to make full use of this program,” said Tester. “Feed wheat is feed wheat. There’s no reason to get it tested. It’s going to go feed hogs or cattle. And the price is going to show that.”

Tester said he hopes FSA will look at the prices for feed wheat and compare it to other grain prices. Feed wheat is much cheaper than wheat that is used for human consumption.

“Instead of making folks jump through all these hoops lets use a little common sense,” said Tester. “Just take a look at the price they received and compare it to what the price should have been. Then you will know if it’s feed wheat or not. Instead of making excuses and trying not to get farmers the money.”

For more on the QLA program contact your local Farm Service Agency office.