On May 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of approximately $6 billion in disaster assistance for commodity and specialty crop growers who suffered crop losses due to natural disasters in 2020 and 2021. The funds are available through the USDA Farm Service Agency’s new Emergency Relief Program.

According to a news release from the California Association of Winegrape Growers, industry experts estimate wildfires and widespread smoke damage in 2020 resulted in $601 million in crop losses for California’s wine grape growers. As a result of those losses, more than $200 million in federal crop insurance indemnity payments were paid to California wine grape growers. 

Growers who had crop insurance and experienced losses in 2020 or 2021, and who qualify for assistance under the ERP, will receive a pre-filled application from the Farm Service Agency to expedite payment, according to the release. 

“USDA’s announcement of the Emergency Relief Program will provide much needed help for wine grape growers who experienced unprecedented losses due to devastating wildfires in 2020,” said John Aguirre, association president, in the release. “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.” 

Aguirre also said the Emergency Relief Program offers up to $900,000 in disaster assistance for eligible growers, a substantial increase over the $250,000 limit available under the previous program known as the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). 

To learn more about the Emergency Relief Program, go to: fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/emergency-relief/index.

by Jonelle Mejica