Tester Secures $6 Billion in Farm Service Agency Relief for Producers Impacted by Natural Disasters

Senator was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, which included this funding

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced $6 billion in disaster relief funding through the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) new Emergency Relief Program (ERP) for commodity and special crop producers impacted by natural disasters in 2020 and 2021. These relief payments will be distributed to offset crop yield and value losses. This first wave of payments will be calculated based on crop insurance data.

USDA plans to send out the first ERP payments to eligible producers in June. For the first round of ERP payments, FSA will send pre-filled forms to producers who have crop insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) information on file. Producers can find out more about these payments by contacting their local FSA office or clicking here.

Tester was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, which included $10 billion in assistance for agricultural producers impacted by wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, winter storms, and other natural disasters in 2020 and 2021. Senator Tester was also instrumental in securing funds specifically designated for ranchers impacted by drought and wildfire through the Emergency Livestock Relief Program.

“These relief payments to our producers are long overdue,” Tester said. “It’s good to see USDA rolling out additional funding to support our farmers, who have been hit especially hard by devastating drought and wildfires these last two years, but it’s critical we keep the pressure on USDA to get this assistance out the door and to our producers as soon as possible.”

Last week, Tester pressed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) progress distributing the $10 billion in disaster relief funds to producers.

“This is critically life and death money.” Tester said. “Nobody wants to get a check from the federal government, but the bottom line is, the drought has cause hay prices to go through the roof, there has been no grass resource because there has been no water. There have been no crops raised because there’s been no water.”

As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has been a champion for farmers and ranchers across the country.

Last June, Tester announced $1 billion in payments from USDA to producers with approved applications for the Quality Loss Adjustment Program (QLA) who suffered losses in 2018 and 2019 and for producers who already received an initial payment through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Tester was instrumental in ensuring that these programs covered Eastern Montana producers.

Earlier that year, Tester pressed the FDA on further delays to QLA payments. 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 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.

In 2019, Tester used the 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. In response to his efforts, USDA issued a disaster declaration for 17 Montana counties.