The Department of Agriculture is preparing to utilize a suite of programs to assist producers struggling with drought.

Gloria Montaño Greene, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, tells Agri-Pulse Newsmakers future flexibilities within the department's programs and potential changes in the 2023 Farm Bill will be important for drought-stricken producers.

“I think some of the solutions we have, and some of the solutions are still needed to come,” Montaño Greene said. “Drought is going to be a really intense one this summer.”

She said the department is looking at ways to support producers with short-term relief and offer ways to achieve long-term resilience. 

USDA announced the new $6 billion Emergency Relief Program, which will help crop producers impacted by natural disasters in the 2020 and 2021 growing seasons. Montaño Greene said producers can expect to see program payments in late May and early June.

In addition to the federal government, many in the crop insurance industry are also keeping a close eye on the drought and the impact it will have on producers.  

Tara Smith, executive vice president at Michael Torrey Associates, spoke on the Newsmakers panel about ERP and future assistance programs for drought. She said she believes actuarial soundness – making sure there is enough money available to fulfil claims – for federal crop insurance in disaster years will be critical to the core integrity of these programs.

“To address specific problems this year is going to be important, but it's always a balancing act,” said Smith. “We want to do everything we can to help farmers get a crop in the ground.”

Tom Sell, managing partner at Combest, Sell & Associates said he believes the crop insurance program could provide a solid platform for a permanent disaster program to be built.

“If you structure this right, you could spend less taxpayer dollars over time and provide more certainty for producers,” he said. “At the same time, crop insurance has been an incredible tool for achieving both those goals.”

Montaño Greene also spoke on the role the USDA Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s staff will play in assisting farmers with these programs. 

To hear more from Montaño Greene, Smith and Sell, view the Agri-Pulse Newsmakers full show.

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