farm losses

Solutions to Streamline and Improve Disaster Assistance

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Farm Bill, Industry

While the federal government provides disaster assistance programs, their current structure and implementation can often fall short of meeting the urgent needs of farmers. Almond Alliance CEO, Aubrey Bettencourt said they are hoping to work with Congress and develop potential solutions in the 2023 Farm Bill. “We have an unfortunate reality where our disaster programs are usually a year later and a dollar short. That is because we have the requirement for ad hoc disaster programs that have to be approved by Congress,” Bettencourt explained.

Disaster Assistance

The ad hoc nature of disaster programs means that assistance would not be available until multiple disasters across the country begin to add up. Bettencourt said Congress should still have authority over disaster programs, but that a standing criteria and protocol would help to ensure a more effective response. “When you consider that we have passed an ad hoc disaster program every year for the last five years, I don’t think it’s ad hoc anymore,” Bettencourt noted.

The ad hoc approach leads to delays in providing assistance and forces farmers to adapt to new programs, software, and training each time a disaster strikes. Bettencourt suggests taking a type of plug-and-play approach that does not require starting from scratch with each disaster. A standardized template that can be applied to disaster assistance programs could cut down on development needs and make implementation significantly easier.

“When Congress passes funding, it just drops in. The program is standing, everybody is trained on it, it’s universal, it’s understood,” said Bettencourt. “You’re pre-enrolled in some ways. You can opt-in if you qualify based on the disaster and allow for a better, more responsive disaster program to help our farmers and our rural communities. But also, be much more mindful for our taxpayer dollar, for our federal employees, and agencies that have to administer these programs.”

Listen to the report below.

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West