Lawmakers applaud relief for farmers, urge more access to disaster aid

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Farmer Tim Novotny, of Wahoo, shreds male corn plants in a field of seed corn, in Wahoo, Neb., Tuesday, July 24, 2018. The Trump administration announced it will provide $12 billion in emergency relief to ease the pain of American farmers slammed by President Donald Trump’s escalating trade disputes with China and other countries. (AP […]

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After urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take action, U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) today praised the announcement of new relief for Michigan farmers who have been unable to plant their crops.

Last week, the Senators wrote a letter to ask the USDA to help Michigan farmers by increasing flexibility with Federal Crop Insurance rules and allowing farmers to plant cover crops and use them for livestock grazing, hay, or silage, which is typically not allowed until after November 1.

Today, the USDA announced it would permit farmers to use their unplanted land for these purposes starting September 1 and still maintain eligibility for crop insurance. This date change will allow farmers to get more out of their land before the winter, while also addressing shortages in livestock feed caused by extreme weather.

“Farmers across Michigan are dealing with some of the wettest weather on record—with many of our counties at or exceeding disaster-levels” said Senator Peters. “I’m pleased the USDA is taking necessary steps to let our farmers try to salvage what they can from the planting season. I urge the USDA to take additional action to treat Michigan farmers no differently than other parts of the country that have been dealing with natural disasters.”

“I applaud the USDA for acting quickly on our request to provide relief for Michigan farmers affected by record rainfall,” said Senator Stabenow. “It’s just common sense to help farmers get the best use out of their land after they were unable to plant their crops this year. I urge the USDA to continue along this path and ensure all impacted farmers are eligible for disaster assistance.”

Large swaths of Michigan farmland have seen precipitation measurements at double their normal rates. As a result, many Michigan farmers have been unable to plant their crops for the season while also facing restrictions on harvesting before the November deadline. Even crops that have made it into the ground might see stunted growth or require replanting. 

There are additional steps the USDA can take to provide relief for Michigan agriculture. In the letter, the Senators asked the USDA to ensure Michigan farmers would be eligible for disaster assistance, which Congress recently passed.

The announcement from the USDA came one day after Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting relief for Michigan farmers facing overwhelming challenges during one of the wettest periods on record in the state.

“This is a win for farmers across our state who are in the midst of one of the toughest periods for farming in Michigan history,” said Gov. Whitmer. “I’m glad the federal government has recognized the importance of Michigan’s agriculture industry to our families and our economy, and I encourage Secretary Perdue to continue providing support by approving a USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation for the State of Michigan and ensuring that all Michigan farmers are eligible for the disaster assistance recently approved by Congress.” 

Michigan is currently in the midst of the third wettest year in state history, with 37.9 inches of rain between May 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019. This weather has delayed and prevented farmers from planting their crops as usual, with 64 out of Michigan’s 83 counties requesting disaster designations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year. 

Additionally today, the State of Michigan announced a $15 million program that allows financial institutions to make low-interest loans to farmers, growers, processors, and farm-related retailers. The State will pay the loan origination fees to reduce the cost the loans to farmers and provide them with support during this period. 

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