With the exception of one Mich. congressional member — Rep. Justin Amash (R-Third District) — the entire Michigan delegation displayed bi-partisan support of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's June 19 request for a USDA Disaster Designation for the entire state of Michigan.
That support came in the way of signatures from the Michigan delegation on a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, calling attention to the fact that Michigan farmers are facing incredible challenges and record production loss due to historic weather conditions.
“As conveyed by the governor, Michigan is experiencing record rainfall, with the state in the midst of the third wettest year in our history,” the letter emphasized. “This rainfall comes on top of other severe weather conditions the state has experienced, including heavy snowfall, extreme temperatures, flash flooding, and tornadoes.”
Michigan Farm Bureau National Legislative Counsel John Kran commended the nearly unanimous and bi-partisan support and action of Michigan’s congressional members in supporting Gov. Whitmer’s disaster declaration request.
“It speaks volumes to the legitimate concerns of farmers, agri-business and rural communities statewide, and it should send a very strong message to Secretary Perdue, just how serious and devastating the weather impact will be to the state’s overall economy,” Kran said.
The letter stressed that damaging weather conditions are substantially affecting farm production, significantly delayed or prevented planting as well as endangered conditions of planted crops. According to USDA, only 63 percent of Michigan's corn was planted as of June 9 and only 43% of soybeans had been planted.
The Michigan congressional delegation also noted that the disruptions in harvesting and planting, has created a forage emergency for the state’s livestock and dairy farmers, resulting in higher feed costs and potential feed shortages later in the year.
“As a result, 64 of Michigan's 83 counties, which spread across all fourteen congressional districts, have requested disaster designations from USDA. On behalf of Michigan farmers, their families, and our state economy, we ask that you give all due consideration to the governor's request for a Disaster Designation for all Michigan counties,” members wrote.
While acknowledging USDA efforts thus far to provide additional flexibility within the Federal Crop Insurance program, the Michigan delegation said a USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation would be the next critical step in providing relief to Michigan farmers.
“A designation would immediately trigger emergency assistance programs and provide a lifeline to struggling producers. Additionally, we reiterate the governor's request for flexibility as the department finalizes details related to the $3 billion for agricultural disaster assistance recently approved by Congress to ensure disaster relief reaches farmers across our state.”
Kran also commended earlier efforts from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Sen. Gary Peters for seeking flexibility to RMA’s Prevent Plant provisions.
In a June 13 letter to USDA Under-Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey, the Michigan Senators called for earlier harvest dates on prevent plant acres for emergency forage supplies, which RMA granted a week later.
“Increased flexibility for the utilization of prevented plant acres should fairly account for weather and climate variance across disparate geographic regions, which is why we encourage you to help ensure this planting season is not a total loss by providing increased flexibility under Federal Crop Insurance rules for utilizing forage and cover crops on prevented plant acres,” the Senators wrote.
“Additionally, Congress recently passed and the President signed a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill to help Americans across the country — including farmers hit by catastrophic storms. As the USDA carries out the relief authorized to address flooding in this act, we encourage you to avoid inequities for Americans that have suffered from extreme weather by ensuring that any definition of flooding covers all instances of excessive moisture. “Whether the excessive moisture and prevented planting is directly caused by a river leaving its banks, more localized stream flooding, or ponding of rainfall or snowmelt, the challenges faced by the farmers are the same and each of them should be eligible for aid in addition to the underlying Federal Crop Insurance,” the Senators concluded.