USDA plans to send Emergency Relief Program and Emergency Livestock Relief Program pre-filled applications directly to eligible producers in early summer for those with qualifying disaster losses for 2022.

The $3.7 billion allocated by Congress in December is significantly less than the $10 billion USDA informed Congress would be needed to cover estimated 2022 losses at levels comparable to ERP and ELRP for 2020 and 2021, Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux told Agri-Pulse earlier this year.  

In a statement, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said funding is “limited and significantly less than the estimated losses” for the events in 2022, which included a “megadrought, Hurricane Ian, epic flooding and catastrophic wildfires.”

Vilsack said, “We are designing payment factors that ensure the fair, equitable and efficient delivery of program benefits to help as many producers as possible offset the significant financial impacts resulting from these ongoing and widespread natural disasters.”

According to USDA's ERP Dashboard, the department allocated $7.4 billion in EPR payments for 2020 and 2021; FSA received some 291,834 applications. “USDA is also concluding the 2021 ELRP program by sending payments in the amount of 20% of the initial ELRP payment to all existing recipients,” the agency said Friday.

USDA was able to streamline the delivery of the natural disaster assistance last year, which sped up payment delivery and reduced FSA work hours. Now, USDA says it plans to offer upcoming payments through a two-track system, including an expedited pathway for producers who had coverage through Risk Management Agency’s federal crop insurance or FSA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). USDA will send those producers a pre-filled application early this summer.

The second ERP track would be offered to growers “who have not been able to avail themselves of risk management coverage or whose losses were not covered,” USDA said in a release.

That track will require producers to provide FSA with certain revenue information which the agency said is “readily available from most tax records,” including data from Schedule F, Profit or Loss from Farming or similar tax documents.

Assistance will be provided to producers who “suffered a decrease in allowable gross revenue in 2022 due to necessary expenses related to losses of eligible crops from a qualifying natural disaster event,” USDA said.  

“FSA will not require these forms to be submitted with the ERP application, but will require a certification, similar to Adjusted Gross Income certification that has been used for many years for farm bill programs. Applicants simply report and certify to the information required for the program,” the agency said.

In a statement, the National Association of Wheat Growers said it appreciated USDA again utilizing the pre-filled applications for row crops.

"USDA’s announcement today brings a glimmer of hope to wheat growers across the nation who bore the brunt of severe drought and other disasters in 2022," said NAWG President Brent Cheyne. "According to the USDA, the 2022 winter wheat crop produced under 750 million bushels, the fifth smallest production year since the 1970s. With wheat growers seeing a decline in their yields and total production due to uncontrollable circumstances, the assistance program is critical in providing relief to struggling farmers.”

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Congress also dedicated another $500 million to livestock producers to supplement feed costs in 2022. Eligible producers include those who suffered grazing losses in a county with a wildfire or rated in the severe drought (D2) category for eight consecutive weeks or extreme drought (D3) or higher during the 2022 calendar year. 

“Additionally, otherwise eligible producers whose permitted grazing on federally managed lands was disallowed due to wildfire will also be eligible for ELRP payments if they applied and were approved for 2022 LFP,” the agency said.

USDA said “in a continued effort to streamline and simplify” benefit distribution, eligible producers “will not be required to apply for payment.”

Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of natural resources for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, welcomed the continued funds from USDA to support cattle producers who faced drought, flooding and other challenging conditions. “This additional support will help producers recover from disasters and quickly return to normal operations,” Glover said in an email statement to Agri-Pulse.

To prepare for the upcoming signups, USDA encouraged producers to have or prepare the following forms with FSA, many of which are likely already on file.

  • Form AD-2047, Customer Data Worksheet (as applicable to the program participant);  
  • Form CCC-902, Farm Operating Plan for an individual or legal entity; 
  • Form CCC-901, Member Information for Legal Entities (if applicable); and  
  • Form AD-1026 Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification.

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