The House Agriculture Committee has approved an $8.5 billion disaster assistance bill that will expand aid offered to producers. The legislation would extend the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) to cover natural disasters in 2020 and 2021. Eligible losses under the legislation will include damage related to wildfires and drought, as well as other extreme weather events. The 2020 WHIP+ Reauthorization Act also applies to dairies that were forced to dump milk as a result of a disaster event.
“This extension of the Wildfire Hurricane Indemnity Program disaster program for 2020 and 2021 losses is crucial,” said House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn “GT” Thompson. “With fires raging out West, drought gripping the Upper Plains, and floods washing through the Mississippi Delta, it seems like no producer has been spared the wrath of Mother Nature this year. That is why it is important we build some momentum for relief.”
Largely based on the original WHIP established in 2017, the new WHIP+ legislation calls for payments for qualified losses for unharvested crops. It also authorizes payments for winegrape producers that suffered losses related to smoke exposure. The threshold for drought losses would also be lowered to a D2 classification. Producers that receive assistance under WHIP+ will still be required to maintain crop insurance coverage over the next two years. The bill also authorizes funding to support streamlining the application process for the program.
“Our disaster assistance programs will need to keep up with the growing pressures our members are facing. Today, the House Agriculture Committee made the right move by advancing this bill to help ensure that we have access to the support we need in a timely manner,” National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said in a press release. “Given the urgency of the matter, the House and Senate should act quickly to pass this measure.”