Congressional delegation calls for expanded ag assistance

Members of the Washington and Oregon delegation signed onto a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), urging USDA to take all statutory eligibilities into account when distributing the $10 billion in aid to Pacific Northwest agricultural producers hit hard by extreme heat, drought and wildfires this summer.

“Congress provided $10 billion to cover qualifying losses experienced by agricultural producers as part of H.R.5305, the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act. As USDA works to swiftly implement the program, we write to urge you to utilize the full eligibilities provided in the statute to assist producers in our states hit hard by extreme heat, drought, wildfires, smoke exposure and related crop quality losses,” the lawmakers wrote. “Additionally, we request that USDA offer guidance as soon as practicable on what types of documentation will be needed for farmers so that they can be ready and able to access this assistance.”

In July of this year, many of the lawmakers writing to Vilsack urged USDA to open relief programs up to more producers that had lost crops and livestock to the droughts, extreme heat and wildfires across the Pacific Northwest this summer. As part of the agricultural assistance included in the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, the lawmakers were able to secure that increased flexibility on who is eligible for the relief funds, so that agricultural producers who suffered heat-related crop, livestock or shellfish losses and were not previously eligible could receive relief funds.

The letter is signed by Reps. Suzan K. DelBene (D-Wash.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Kim Schrier,  (D-Wash.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), as well as Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Maria Cantwell D-Wash.).

Read the full letter here.