On June 6, 2019, the disaster aid package (officially known as H.R. 2157, “Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019.”) was signed into law. The bill contains substantial money that will aid Georgia in the recovery from Hurricane Michael, as well as addressing other disasters throughout the U.S. during calendar years 2018 and 2019, including Hurricane Florence, other hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, and wildfires. I have outlined below key highlights of the legislation directly relevant to Georgia agricultural producers.
- A total of $3 billion has been allocated to losses of crops (including milk, on-farm stored commodities, crops prevented from planting in 2019, and harvested adulterated wine grapes), trees, bushes, and vines.
- Block grants will be provided to states for forest restoration, poultry, and livestock losses.
- Tree assistance payments are to be made to eligible orchardists or nursery tree growers of pecan trees with a tree mortality rate that exceeds 7.5% (adjusted for normal mortality) and is less than 15% (adjusted for normal mortality) for losses incurred from January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018.
- Not more than $7 million for agricultural producers whose Whole Farm Revenue Protection indemnity payments were reduced following 2018 crop year losses due to state authorized disaster assistance programs.
- Crops eligible for Federal Crop Insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) are limited to payments not to exceed 90% of the loss for those that obtained either of these policies. For producers that did not obtain available crop insurance or NAP, payments are limited to 70% of the loss. The expected value of the crop is defined as the greater of the projected price or the harvest price.
- Additional allocations were made for the Emergency Forest Restoration Program ($480 million), Emergency Conservation Program ($558 million), Emergency Watershed Protection Program ($435 million), and rural community facilities programs ($150 million).
Keep in mind that dollar figures included here are not allocations only for Georgia but are for all producers throughout the nation that are eligible for aid. It is expected that the crop losses will be managed through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) using the Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP) in the same fashion as was applied in 2018 for Hurricane Irma, with the exception of the increased payment limits to 90% and 70% for insured and uninsured acres, respectively. The signup process and payment dates are not known at this time. More information is forthcoming.