The complete fact sheet is best viewed here, in PDF format.
In response to active hurricane seasons and other natural disasters in 2017, 2018, and 2019, Congress appropriated, through three acts, $5.4 billion in “emergency” funds to compensate farming and ranching businesses for economic losses. This disaster aid is in addition to federal payments made from various farm safety net programs authorized by the farm bill: commodity programs, federally subsidized crop insurance, and four separate permanently authorized agricultural disaster programs primarily for livestock and orchardists.
Congress’ now repeated appropriation of “emergency” unbudgeted income subsidies for agricultural businesses, after going nearly a decade without doing so, is problematic. Costly mandatory farm bill entitlement programs were supposed to displace the need for unpredictable ad hoc aid. In addition, the revival of ad hoc subsidies discourages responsible risk management by extending federal responsibility to perils and economic losses that have never been the responsibility of the federal government. The Secretary of Agriculture’s implementation of the disaster spending is also at times in contradiction to the clear intent of Congress.
Moving forward, Congress should be more judicious in its implementation of the financial safety net for agricultural businesses and ensure federal disaster assistance does not undermine efforts to create a cost-effective, transparent financial safety for farming and ranching businesses.
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