By: Tas Smith, State Executive Director, USDA Farm Service Agency, Georgia
Agricultural producers are facing tough times. Under the direction of President Donald Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to ensuring producers suffer minimal financial impact from the wrath of Mother Nature and trade tariffs implemented by China and others.
Trade Impact Assistance
On July 29, signup began for the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) and will continue through December 6, 2019. MFP provides up to $14.5 billion in direct payments to agricultural producers who have been affected by unjustified retaliatory foreign tariffs on U.S. farm goods; causing a loss of traditional export markets.
Assistance for covered non-specialty crops is based on a single county payment rate multiplied by a farm’s total plantings, in aggregate in 2019. A producer’s total payment-eligible plantings cannot exceed total 2018 plantings. Calculations will consider new farmers, fallow ground, and farms exiting the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
County payment rates range from $15 to $150 per acre, depending on the impact of unjustified trade retaliation on that county. Producers will receive a payment based on 2019 planted acreage multiplied by county payment rate.
Dairy producers who were in business as of June 1, 2019, will receive a per hundredweight payment on production history, and hog producers will receive a payment based on the number of live hogs owned on a day selected by the producer between April 1 and May 15, 2019.
For specialty crops, producers will receive a payment based on 2019 acres of fruit or nut bearing plants. Rates include: Dairy (milk): $0.20 per hundredweight, Hogs: $11 per head, Nuts: $146 per acre, and table grapes: $0.03 per pound at 20,820 pounds per acre.
Payment Limitation and Eligibility
Payments for each category of covered commodity (non-specialty, livestock and specialty) are limited to $250,000 per person or legal entity, but no applicant can receive more than $500,000 (for example, a dairy producer who grows cotton and produces pecans can only receive $500,000).
To be eligible for payments, applicants also must either: have an average adjusted gross income for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017 of less than $900,000 or derive at least 75% of their adjusted gross income from farming.
MFP payments will be made in up to three installments, with the second and third installments evaluated as market conditions and trade impact dictates. If conditions warrant, the second and third installments will be made in November 2019 and early January 2020. The first payment will be issued based on the higher of the larger of 50 percent of a calculated county payment rate or $15 per acre.
A list of covered commodities, the MFP application, and payment rates can be found at farmers.gov/mfp.
Disaster Recovery Assistance
The 2018 growing season was one of extreme difficulty for Georgia producers. Last October one of the most productive crop years on record was battered and destroyed by Hurricane Michael. According to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, Hurricane Michael caused more than $2.5 billion in losses to Georgia’s agricultural sector.
Responding to this devastation, Congress passed, and President Trump signed, the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019. The law provides assistance for production losses from Hurricane Michael through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+).
The disaster relief package also includes new Milk Loss and On-Farm Storage Loss programs to help producers who had to dump or remove milk without compensation or for losses of harvested commodities, including hay that was stored in on-farm structures.
Peach and blueberry producers will also receive assistance from 2017 freezes that affected 2017 and 2018 production through the original regulations of the 2017 WHIP program.
Signup for WHIP+ began on September 11 and will continue into 2020. WHIP+ builds off the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP) and is available to producers who have suffered eligible losses of certain crops, trees, bushes, or vines.
To be considered eligible for WHIP+, producers must farm land in a Secretarially or Presidentially-declared disaster county. Producers outside one of those counties may be still be eligible for assistance if they can prove that they experienced the minimum level of loss due to a qualifying, eligible disaster event.
Eligibility will be determined for each producer based on the size of the loss and the level of noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) or conventional crop insurance coverage obtained by the producer. A “WHIP+ factor” will be determined for each crop based on the producer’s coverage level. Producers who elected higher coverage levels will receive a higher WHIP+ factor. Producers who suffered crop losses due to Hurricane Michael will be compensated at 100 percent of their calculated WHIP+ payment, once the application is approved.
WHIP+ benefits will be subject to a per person or legal entity payment limitation of $125,000 or $250,000 if at least 75 percent of the person’s or legal entity’s average income is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities, provided the participant submits the required certification and documentation.
Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for WHIP+. Producers receiving assistance through WHIP+ will be required to purchase crop insurance or NAP coverage, at the minimum 60 percent level for the next two consecutive crop years.
USDA is also working with Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner to further assist growers through state block grants for producer losses not covered by WHIP+ or other USDA disaster programs.
For county rates, a WHIP+ application or related program information, visit farmers.gov/whip-plus.
For more information, please contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Center farmers.gov/service-locator.
State Executive Director
USDA Farm Service Agency – Georgia