USDA Announces Availability of Disaster Assistance for 2020 and 2021 Losses

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the  availability of approximately $6 billion in disaster assistance through the Emergency Relief Program (ERP) for commodity and specialty crop growers who suffered crop losses due to disaster events in  2020 and 2021.  

Industry experts estimate wildfires and widespread smoke damage in 2020 resulted in $601 million  in crop losses for California’s winegrape growers. As a result of those losses, more than $200 million  in federal crop insurance indemnity payments were paid to California winegrape growers. Growers  who had crop insurance and experienced losses in 2020 or 2021, and qualify for assistance under  ERP, will receive a pre-filled application from USDA’s Farm Service Agency to expedite payment. 

The following is a statement from John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Winegrape  Growers: 

“USDA’s announcement of the Emergency Relief Program will provide much needed help for  winegrape growers who experienced unprecedented losses due to devastating wildfires in 2020.  There is a substantial difference between the estimated value of crop losses, due to smoke damage,  and the crop insurance indemnities paid to growers. The ERP will help bridge the gap. It’s  appropriate that Congress and USDA made this assistance available, which our growers have been  anticipating for some time.  

“USDA’s ERP offers notable improvements over the preceding disaster assistance program, the  Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). According to a USDA fact sheet describing  the ERP, eligible winegrape growers who derived at least 75% of their adjusted gross income from  farming, ranching, or forestry may receive up to $900,000 in disaster assistance. This represents a  substantial increase over the previous payment limit of $250,000 under WHIP+. Growers with  qualifying losses, but whose farm income falls below the 75% threshold of their average AGI may  receive ERP payments of up to $125,000. 

“After significant delay, CAWG is grateful for USDA’s announcement. California’s winegrape growers  have weathered enormous disruptions in the past three years – low grape prices, COVID-19  pandemic, wildfires, water curtailments, labor shortages, and rapidly escalating production costs.  The availability of disaster assistance is a much-needed bit of good news.” 

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