Major commodity groups and the American Farm Bureau Federation are calling on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to overhaul a 2022 disaster assistance program that significantly prorates assistance for larger losses. 

The Emergency Relief Program, a program created by USDA to distribute ad hoc disaster assistance, was funded for 2022 with a $3.2 billion appropriation from Congress that was significantly less than the estimated uncovered losses.

For farmers with crop insurance, a base payment is calculated and then reduced according to a progressive factoring methodology. A base payment of more than $10,000 will be cut by 90%. The new program also restricts reimbursement for insurance premiums and fees to beginning farmers and others classified as “underserved.”

“We urge USDA to alter the current program calculations in a manner that more fully meets the needs of all producers,” says a letter signed by AFBF and more than 140 other state and national organizations. The major commodity groups on the letter include the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cotton Council, National Sorghum Producers, U.S. Peanut Federation and USA Rice.

“In the case of the progressive payment factor, we oppose a policy that delivers the least amount of benefit to those who have lost the most outside of the payment limits provided in statute,” the letter says.

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“While we appreciate the funding restraints under which ERP 2022 was developed, we believe that USDA should instead aim to provide more equitable support for losses of all magnitudes. This can be achieved by using a single, uniform factor, as USDA has done in the past. With regards to incorporating the producer-paid premiums, this change will keep some growers from qualifying for any assistance and create a significant disparity of payments among producers.”

USDA has said the actual uncovered losses totaled $12 billion, even more than the $10 billion estimate when Congress was considering the funding. According to the department, the modifications made to ERP for 2022 losses resulted in a “more advantageous, equitable distribution of limited funds to more producers in need of assistance.”

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