COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Rep. Mark Alford (R-Raytown) introduced a $8.5 billion bill last week to reauthorize WHIP+, or Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus.
The bill would allow farmers to recoup money for crops that were lost due to ongoing drought conditions that continue to impact the state.
The program provided payments to producers in 2018 and 2019 and covered the losses of crops, trees, bushes, and vines that occurred as a result of natural disasters. The bill was reauthorized in 2021. Versions of the bill in previous years addressed just damage from wildfires and hurricanes.
WHIP+ was a supplemental USDA program that allowed farmers to receive help during national disasters. the assistance was extended to those who were not insured by crop insurance before the disaster as well.
According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Drought monitor, 79% of Missouri is currently experiencing a drought, with nearly 11% of the state experiencing extreme drought. Much of Mid-Missouri is still experiencing drought conditions, and has been for most of the summer. Gov. Mike Parson had signed an executive order on May 31 declaring a drought alert for the state.
"As we think about the drought, the seriousness, the severity that we've experienced this past year, the congressman, having listened to farmers and ranchers, is looking for a way to provide assistance as timely as possible. As we head into the winter months," Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins, who is also a farmer, said. "Where I live here in the northwest corner of St. Clair County in west central Missouri. We continue to be in stage three, but many question whether we should be in for many of our ponds have dried up."
The state had given farmers access to emergency hay and water in June.
"I'm purchasing hay from south Arkansas and I'm waiting to get trucks loaded there and brought up here. That's just the severity of what we're facing," Hawkins said. "Corn yields are all over the board. Soybean yields around us are pretty poor. So overall, it has been a really challenging year for agriculture due to the drought."
According to the Missouri Farm Bureau, the summer drought impacted forage production, which they call, "a double-edged sword."
"Due to the extreme drought this year, those forage crops have burned up. That’s left livestock nothing to graze except a few hardy (but not nutritious) weeds," Janet Adkins, of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said. "That also means there’s no excess forage to bale and to store away for winter. In a short year, farmers may have to buy some excess hay to feed during winter, but this year, many are buying hay for summer and now working to find hay for winter too."
Lawmakers are in the process of negotiating a new Farm Bill, which is set to expire at the end of September, at this time no draft of the bill has been released.