May 22, 2023 – Tom Vilsack, the head of the Agriculture Department, announced last week a plan to distribute the $3.7 billion to help farmers who have had losses because of natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding in 2022. This money is for the Emergency Relief Program (ERP) and Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP). The Agriculture Department is sharing this information early so farmers can prepare and get their paperwork in order. They are also finishing up the 2021 ELRP program and will be sending extra payments to the farmers who got help last year.
Vilsack acknowledges the huge costs of the natural disasters in 2022. To make things faster and easier for farmers, the Agriculture Department has improved the process for giving out aid, speeding up payments, and reducing the time spent on paperwork by a lot. But, Vilsack warns, there’s only a limited amount of money to help with losses.
The Disaster Relief Act and What it Means for Farmers.
On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023. This act provides about $3.7 billion to help farmers who were hit by wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, winter storms, and other disasters in 2022. Also, about $500 million of this money is specifically for livestock farmers who had losses because of drought or wildfire in 2022.
How ERP 2022 Will Help Crop Producers.
The Agriculture Department wants to use the lessons learned from the ERP and ELRP programs in previous years to get help to farmers quicker for the losses they had in 2022.
Based on feedback, the Department is planning to offer an ERP track for farmers who were covered by the Risk Management Agency’s federal crop insurance or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). They aim to make the application process faster and simpler, and they plan to send pre-filled applications to eligible farmers by early summer.
For farmers who weren’t able to get risk management coverage or whose losses weren’t covered, the Department is planning to offer a way for them to get ERP help. This will be based on their decreased income in 2022 because of losses from a natural disaster.
They’re planning to roll out these two options at the same time. The first option will have less paperwork because it uses existing data. The second option will need more information about the farmer’s income.
How ELRP 2022 Will Help Livestock Producers and Wrap Up ELRP for 2021.
For ranchers affected by the disasters, the Agriculture Department plans to use data from the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) to deliver ELRP aid for increased costs in feed in 2022.
To be eligible for ELRP help for 2022 losses, livestock farmers need to have had grazing losses from wildfire or severe drought during 2022 and have been approved for the 2022 LFP. Additionally, farmers who were not allowed to graze their livestock on federally managed lands because of wildfire will also be eligible for ELRP payments if they were approved for the 2022 LFP.
To make things easier, farmers who are eligible for ELRP benefits won’t need to apply for payment.
The Agriculture Department is also planning to provide additional aid to ranchers who had livestock losses from drought and wildfire in 2021. More details will be announced later.
How Producers Can Prepare.
To participate in ERP and ELRP for 2022 losses, both crop and livestock producers should have or be prepared to have the following forms on file with FSA:
- 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.
According to the USDA, most producers, especially those who have previously participated in FSA programs, will likely have these required forms on file. However, those who are uncertain or want to confirm should contact FSA at their local USDA Service Center.
In addition to the forms listed above, underserved producers are encouraged to register their status with FSA, using Form CCC-860, Socially Disadvantaged, Limited Resource, Beginning and Veteran Farmer or Rancher Certification, as certain existing permanent and ad-hoc disaster programs provide increased benefits or reduced fees and premiums.
Producers with eligible crop losses who did not have federal crop insurance or NAP risk management coverage for 2022 and intend to apply for ERP assistance will need to pull together revenue information that is readily available from most tax records. FSA encourages producers to have their tax documents from the past few years and supporting materials ready including Schedule F (Form 1040) and Profit or Loss from Farming or similar tax documents. 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.
Crop producers who have federal crop insurance coverage should ensure that information on file with their insurance agent is accurate and that any pending activities needed to file loss claims for 2022 losses are addressed as soon as possible. Producers who received ERP assistance last year or who will receive assistance for 2022 losses are required to purchase crop insurance or NAP for the next two crop years.