Fair Access to Agriculture Disaster Programs Act Introduced

Josh McGillLegislative

U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta of California and Kat Cammack of Florida have introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce income barriers that producers face in accessing agriculture disaster assistance. The Fair Access to Agriculture Disaster Programs Act aims to ensure that basic safety-net programs for producers are readily available to help full-time farmers recover following natural disasters.

agriculture disaster

Current adjusted gross income (AGI) limitations disproportionately prohibit producers with high input costs from participating in certain U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster programs in a meaningful way, the representatives said. These limitations have not kept pace with inflation. Specialty crop producers across the country have experienced this issue and have been denied access to USDA disaster programs. Panetta said this has most recently occurred in California during winter storms and resulting flooding.

“It’s unacceptable that in the wake of a disaster, some of our farmers, ranchers and producers are unable to access agricultural disaster assistance programs that were specifically created to help them get back on their feet,” said Panetta. He said the proposed legislation “would waive adjusted gross income limitations in order to increase access to and improve the impact of our agricultural safety-net programs.” 

Cammack added:“The AGI limitations set years ago have denied access for producers who truly need it, and the exemption for farms making 75% of their income from farming and farming-related practices is much needed to bolster resilience.”

“California has been subject to multiple natural disasters in recent years, ranging from fire to flood,” said Western Growers President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Puglia. “Just this year in Monterey County, farmers suffered at least $600 million in flood losses. Many produce growers can’t use the federal government’s current farm disaster programs due to flawed congressional restrictions. The Fair Access to Agriculture Disaster Programs Act will ensure that full-time farmers are no longer denied access to programs that allow them to make a living.”

Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association President Mike Joyner added: “When these natural disasters happen, it is critical that our farmers are eligible to participate in disaster recovery programs. The Fair Access to Agriculture Disaster Programs Act will provide increased access to these recovery programs.”

The act would specifically exempt the AGI limitation for farms that get 75% of their income from farming or related farming practices. This would apply to the following disaster programs:

  • Tree Assistance Program
  • Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program
  • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program
  • Livestock Forage Disaster Program
  • Livestock Indemnity Program

The act is endorsed by Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, Western Growers, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and American Honey Producers Association.

Source: U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta

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