Tester Urges USDA to Act on Northeast Montana Wheat Crisis

Senator: recent, heavy snow qualifies Northeastern Montana farmers for WHIP+ assistance

Following two weeks of heavy snow in Northeast Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week urged Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to reconsider his decision not to extend disaster assistance to the region’s wheat farmers who were forced to leave their crop in the ground or were left with unsellable product due to excessive moisture this harvest season.

“In the last two weeks, Northeast Montana received more than a foot of heavy, wet snow…The Additional Supplemental Appropriators for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 (H.R. 2157) extends the [Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus] to expenses related to losses of crops as a consequence of ‘hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, and wildfires.’ The language in this bill could not be clearer, and as such I urge you to act on it immediately and extend WHIP+ assistance to these producers.”

In September, Senator Tester sent Secretary Perdue a letter asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to clarify that the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) includes value and quality losses, and that farmers in Northeast Montana facing those losses were eligible for the program. Nearly eight weeks later, USDA finally responded that they would not provide WHIP+ assistance to Montana farmers.

“I am extremely disappointed in your decision to exclude Montana farmers from the WHIP+ program for quality loss related to excessive moisture,” wrote Tester in his letter this week. “In a time of extreme market volatility and trade uncertainty, USDA’s mission is to ‘mitigate the significant risks of farming.’ In Northeast Montana, USDA is failing to deliver that objective for struggling farmers.”

As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has been a champion for farmers and ranchers across the country. Earlier this year, he introduced his Seeding Rural Resilience Act to help combat rising rates of farmer suicide, and The Trump Administration recently adopted his Restoring Rural Residencies Act into a rule change to bring more medical professionals into rural hospitals.

Read the full letter HERE.