Washington – Today Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) and Representatives Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Cynthia Axne (IA-03), Randy Feenstra (IA-04), Terri Sewell (AL-07), Clay Higgins (LA-03), Peter DeFazio (OR-04) and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) and 21 other signers wrote to House leaders and Appropriators asking that they extend and fully fund the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) for 2020 natural disasters. The bipartisan group of lead signers represent regions that were hit hard by natural disasters, such as wildfires, in 2020 during the Coronavirus pandemic. Thompson has introduced legislation to reactivate this program for 2020 disasters. A copy of the letter is below.
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Chairwoman DeLauro, Ranking Member Granger, Chairman Scott, and Ranking Member Thompson:
We urge you to take immediate action to extend and fully fund the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) for 2020 to provide much needed relief to agricultural producers who have experienced great economic losses as a result of wildfires, hurricanes, derecho and other natural disasters last year.
In 2020, California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado suffered devastating wildfires, while Iowa, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas faced severe hurricanes and extreme precipitation events. As thousands of Americans in these states continue the arduous process of rebuilding their lives, it is imperative that the federal government provide critical assistance to those affected, including the agricultural community. We must support the small family farmers who are at risk of losing everything because their crops were damaged or destroyed by natural disasters.
Tragically, losses to life and property in the wake of a disaster are readily apparent, but less obvious is the significant damage and widespread uncertainty due to the smoke, flooding, wind and other physical effects of wildfires and hurricanes.
For example, In California, Oregon and Washington, we have learned that when crops are heavily exposed to fresh smoke, they can absorb a matrix of compounds that drastically changes the product. Wildfire smoke taints the yet to be harvested product and renders the product useless. This damage can sometimes completely ruin entire crops and often put immense strain on grower’s livelihoods. Fruits including wine grapes are especially sensitive to this kind of damage.
Across the southern United States, hurricanes and tornadoes caused widespread damage to crops including cotton, citrus, sugarcane, sesame, corn, soybeans and many others. In Iowa, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama’s agricultural producers are experiencing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Extreme winds stripped harvests of their fruits and seeds, overly saturated soil resulted in rotting crops before the ground was able to dry and heavy rain had devastating effects.
As natural disasters continue, an increasing number of buyers are rejecting agricultural products, leaving farmers and growers in our communities desperate to recover lost revenue. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the need for assistance as agricultural producers have had to recover from disasters while also dealing with the effects of the pandemic. This support is more critical than ever. The federal government has the opportunity and responsibility to act now by immediately extending WHIP+ for losses incurred as a result of 2020 disasters. We can ensure that farmers, growers and agricultural workers receive the support that they desperately need.
We sincerely appreciate your support of this vital program over the last several years and look forward to your active leadership and continued interest in assisting agricultural producers in overcoming the devastation caused by last year’s disasters. We look forward to working with you to ensure extension and funding of this critical support.
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