$3B in USDA aid won’t help Dallas County farmers

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2019

On Tuesday, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) issued a press release touting more than $3 billion in disaster aid being made available through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) to help agricultural producers impacted by natural disasters this year and last.

However, those funds will largely go to counties impacted by Hurricane Michael last year or the tornadoes that pounded Lee County earlier this year, according to Dallas County Farmers Federation President Jimmy Holliman.

“It’s not going to mean a lot to Dallas County,” Holliman said. “It’s going to be more for those people that were hit by Hurricane Michael last year – those people have been waiting and haven’t gotten any aid at all.”

Email newsletter signup

Indeed, Holliman’s statement seems to be born out in the fine print related to the various funds available to Alabama farmers – none of the programs listed in the press release, which include the counties eligible for aid as a result of natural disasters in 2018 and 2019, as well as Tropical Storm Cindy in 2017, include Dallas County.

Despite that, Holliman believes the aid will be a boon for those farmers eligible to receive it.

“You have to realize, those people lost their crop but still had to pay bills,” Holliman said. “Then, they had to refinance to put in a crop this year. For any business, it’s hard to go without income for a whole year. This is not going to solve all of their problems, but it will help.”

According to the press release, WHIP+ funding is available to “eligible producers” that suffered “eligible losses of certain crops, trees, bushes or vines” in counties where an official disaster was declared, though others may apply with supporting documentation to verify that their farms were impacted by a natural disaster.

Losses must have been the result of “hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms or wildfires that occurred in 2018 or 2019.”

In the Black Belt, Barbour and Pike counties are eligible for aid as a result of 2018 disasters, while Greene and Pike are eligible for relief from 2019 disasters – farmers in Hale and Marengo counties are eligible to receive aid as a result of Tropical Storm Cindy in 2017.

The announcement that the aid was being made available was made at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

ADAI Commissioner Rick Pate was among those in attendance.

“It was an honor to be present when [USDA] Secretary [Sonny] Perdue made this announcement,” Pate said in the press release. “We appreciate this much-needed disaster relief program focused on farmers impacted by natural disasters. These past two years, farmers and rural communities have experienced tremendous losses.”

For more information, contact the local USDA service center or visit farmers.gov/recover/whip-plus.