By Max Fisher, Director of Economics and Government Relations
Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that agricultural producers affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 can apply for assistance through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+), which contains provisions to address losses from hurricanes hitting the southeast, wildfires in the west, and flooding in the Midwest.
Sign-up began on Sept. 11 at Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices.
More than $3 billion is available through the disaster relief package enacted by Congress in early June. WHIP+ builds on its predecessor program, the 2017 Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). In addition, the relief package includes new programs to cover losses for milk dumped or removed from the commercial market and 75 percent of losses of eligible farm-stored commodities attributable to eligible disaster events in 2018 and 2019. Also, prevented planting supplemental disaster payments will provide support to producers who were prevented from planting eligible crops for the 2019 crop year because of flooding or excessive moisture.
WHIP+ will be available for eligible producers who have suffered eligible losses of certain crops, trees, bushes or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only). Disaster losses must have resulted from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms or wildfires that occurred in 2018 or 2019. In addition, producers in counties that did not received a disaster declaration or designation still may apply for WHIP+ but must provide supporting documentation to establish that the crops were directly affected by a qualifying disaster loss.
A list of counties that received qualifying disaster declarations and designations is available at farmers.gov/recover/whip-plus. Because grazing and livestock losses, other than milk losses, are covered by other disaster recovery programs offered through FSA, those losses are not eligible for WHIP+.
WHIP+ is only designed to provide assistance for production losses. However, if quality was taken into consideration under federal crop insurance or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) policy, where production was further adjusted, the adjusted production will be used in calculating assistance under that program.
Eligibility will be determined for each producer based upon the size of the loss and the level of insurance coverage elected by the producer. A WHIP+ factor will be determined for each crop based on a producer’s coverage level. Producers who elected higher coverage levels will receive a higher WHIP+ factor.
The WHIP+ payment factor ranges from 75 percent to 95 percent, depending upon the level of crop insurance or NAP coverage that a producer obtained for the crop. Producers who did not insure their crops in 2018 or 2019 will receive 70 percent of the expected value of the crop. Insured crops (either crop insurance or NAP coverage) will receive between 75 and 95 percent of the expected value; those who purchased the highest levels of coverage will receive 95 percent of the expected value.
At signup, a producer will be asked to provide verifiable and reliable production records. If a producer is unable to provide production records, WHIP+ payments will be determined based on the lower of either the actual loss certified by the producer and determined acceptable by FSA or the county expected yield and county disaster yield. The county disaster yield is the production that a producer would have been expected to make based on the eligible disaster conditions in the county.
WHIP+ payments for 2018 disasters will be eligible for 100 percent of their calculated value. WHIP+ payments for 2019 disasters will be limited to an initial 50 percent of their calculated value, with an opportunity to receive up to the remaining 50 percent after Jan. 1, 2020, if sufficient funding remains.
WHIP+ benefits will be subject to a payment limitation of either $125,000 or $250,000 per crop year, depending upon their verified average adjusted gross income.
Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for WHIP+. But all producers receiving WHIP+ payments will be required to purchase crop insurance or NAP, at the 60 percent coverage level or higher, for the next two available, consecutive crop years after the crop year for which WHIP+ payments were paid.
All producers with flooding or excess moisture-related prevented planting insurance claims in calendar year 2019 will receive a prevented planting supplemental disaster (“bonus”) payment equal to 10 percent of their prevented planting indemnity; an additional 5 percent will be provided to those who purchased harvest-price-option coverage.
As under 2017 WHIP, WHIP+ will provide prevented planting assistance to uninsured producers, NAP producers and producers who may have been prevented from planting an insured crop in the 2018 crop year and those 2019 crops that had a final planting date prior to Jan. 1, 2019.