The Agriculture Department will soon start distributing $6 billion in disaster relief payments for losses producers had in 2020 and 2021 through a wide range of natural disasters, including drought, wildfires and excessive heat and cold.

The payments are being made under the first step of a two-phase approach. Any crop eligible for crop insurance or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program can qualify for the new Emergency Revenue Program, except for crops intended for grazing.

The payments will cover losses from wildfires, hurricanes, floods, derechos, excessive heat, winter storms, freezes, smoke exposure, excessive moisture and drought.

ERP payments will be calculated according to the producer’s level of crop insurance or NAP coverage. Payments will be based on an ERP factor that will vary from 75% to 95%. Producers whose crop insurance and NAP data are on file with the Farm Service Agency will receive application forms that are pre-filled with key information FSA needs to determine payments. The forms will provide ERP payment calculations.

To apply for resources under this program, all they have to do is fill in the remaining boxes and sign it and get it back to FSA as quickly as possible," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Monday. "We expect and anticipate that this will result in checks arriving sometime in the latter part of this month or the first part of June."

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He said it's "a much more efficient and much more rapid system than previous efforts under similar programs, where a producer sometimes had to wait a number of months before they received significant payments."

Producers who receive ERP payments will be required to buy crop insurance for the next two crop years.

USDA previously provided Emergency Livestock Relief Program assistance to livestock producers affected by drought and wildfires. There was also similar assistance provided by the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program and WHIP-Plus program in recent years. 

Under the second phase of ERP and ELRP, USDA will make additional payments to “fill gaps in the initial payments and cover producers” who didn’t benefit from the initial round of the two programs.

Congress provided $10 billion for 2020 and 2021 crop and livestock losses.

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