Tester to Farm Service Agency on Disaster Assistance Delays: ‘right a wrong for Eastern Montana grain growers’

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

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today is taking the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to task over further delays to disaster assistance support for Eastern Montana farmers who were hit hard by quality losses in the 2018 and 2019, despite the recent rollout of a program meant to make them whole.

“After more than a year of waiting, Montanans were initially thrilled to hear that [the Quality Loss Assistance Program] would provide much-needed support for impacted growers,” wrote Tester. “That is why it is exceptionally disappointing to hear that QLA does not provide adequate support for producers that sold grain as feed. Under existing QLA guidelines, 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.”

Tester concluded, “It is absolutely unacceptable that on the way out the door, the Trump Administration created program rules that do not actually work for folks on the ground. I urge you to correct this error, and right a wrong for Eastern Montana grain growers.”

The announcement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Quality Loss Adjustment Program (QLA) earlier this month was meant to finally provide relief to producers who suffered crop quality losses in 2018 and 2019. 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 recent 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.

Read Tester’s full letter HERE.