Not Good Enough: Lawmakers express concerns over the USDA’s 2022 Emergency Relief Program roll-out

More than 60 legislators have voiced concerns that USDA’s ERP negatively impacts farmers’ ability to finance and plan for next year’s crop.

More than 60 lawmakers in Washington are voicing concerns about the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Emergency Relief Program (ERP) for 2022.

The group, led by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX), recently sent a letter addressed to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to express their reservations about the methodology and implementation of the ERP in 2022 — emphasizing the need for timely and effective assistance for farmers and ranchers grappling with the aftermath of various natural disasters across the country last year.

The letter highlights the delay in the USDA’s announcement — which was released nearly a year after Congress allocated more than $3 billion in funding through the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2023 (P.L. 117-328). The lawmakers also point out that the USDA had the 2021 ERP Phase 1 framework available to use as a reference point in 2022, which was the initial method encouraged by Congress. Lawmakers go on to suggest that by utilizing that existing framework, the USDA may have provided a more expeditious response for farmers and ranchers in desperate need of assistance.

Lawmakers acknowledge the challenges faced by American producers and stress the importance of a relief program that allocates assistance equitably. They argue that the current program may lead to the improper allocation of limited resources and fail to provide adequate assistance to full-time farm families with the deepest losses.

The introduction of a new payment limit termed the “progressive payment factor,” is also questioned, with concerns raised about its impact on the most severely affected farm families.

Additionally, lawmakers express worries about the methodology of the 2022 ERP, stating that it might negatively impact farmers’ ability to secure financing from lenders and plan for next year’s crop. They highlight potential challenges for mid-sized farms, citing a significant reduction in assistance that could be financially burdensome.

Earlier this year, members of Congress had sent a letter to USDA regarding ERP Phase II, urging reconsideration of fundamental changes and recommending the use of the ERP Phase 1 framework for the 2022 crop year. The concerns raised in the letter were not fully addressed, leading to the current two-track payment calculation system.

In conclusion, the lawmakers request the USDA to reevaluate the current ERP for 2022, considering the concerns raised by producers and Congress.

To read the full letter, click HERE.

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