Help is expected to be soon on the way for farmers who experienced damaging losses during this year and last year’s string of natural disasters.

The House of Representatives approved the $19.1 billion disaster aid package, H.R. 2157, on the evening of June 3. The bipartisan bill was passed 354-58 and went on to the president’s desk, where President Trump signed the bill on the afternoon of June 6.

The aid package includes relief for Americans impacted by flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, drought, and other natural disasters. Specifically, just over $3 billion has been appropriated for expenses related to “losses of crops (including milk, on-farm stored commodities, crops prevented from planting in 2019, and harvested adulterated wine grapes), trees, bushes, and vines” as a result of the disasters.

Flooded corn field generic

This cornfield in Kansas was flooded. Flooding is one of the several natural disasters that caused damages recognized in the disaster relief bill.

Scott Brown, director of strategic partnerships for the University of Missouri College of Agricultural Food and Natural Resources, is unsure about the future implications of this bill for farmers.

“It’s still too early to tell,” he told WLJ. “We are going to have to wait for USDA to give some indication of how the $3 billion will be spent that is meant to help with the agriculture disaster portion.”

Brown does call attention to the fact that the bill specifies damages from calendar years 2018 and 2019—and 2019 isn’t over yet.

“What other potential issues will arise between now and the end of the year?” he asked. “I think USDA has a tough job in figuring out how to manage that pot of money when you realize we aren’t done with 2019 yet and there are potentially other issues going to arise later this year.”

Brown added that “Hindsight will be 20/20 and no one knows how the rest of the year will unfold.”

Included in the bill are funds appropriated for conservation, crop and livestock block grants, and rural development. The bill will additionally include support for Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricane of 2017, with $900 million appropriated for nutrition assistance and recovery efforts. — Anna Miller, WLJ editor

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