Arrington Leads Bicameral Letter Calling Out USDA Discriminatory Disaster Relief Payment Model
Washington, December 5, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, House Budget Chairman Jodey Arrington (TX-19) and U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), led 65 members of the United States House and Senate in sending a letter to the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Tom Vilsack, expressing their concerns about the implementation of new changes to Emergency Relief Program (ERP) payments for losses incurred in 2022. The letter urges the USDA to appropriately follow the law and immediately return the ERP back to 2021 guidelines that were aligned with Congressional intent.
Chairman Arrington said, “Disasters don’t discriminate against farmers based on their race or gender and neither should our government programs. The USDA's 2022 Emergency Relief Program (ERP) gives higher disaster payments to producers based on the color of their skin and biological sex - rather than targeting farmers with the greatest need. This is just another example of the Biden Administration using identity politics to drive public policy. These discriminatory and divisive practices have no place in America.”
"Joe Biden's war on American agriculture continues. It seems like every program put forward by this administration comes with arbitrary restrictions that hurt farmers and ranchers in an effort to advance their political agenda," Senator Marshall said. "The Emergency Relief Program was once workable and effective but has now fallen into total disrepair. There is no sound logic to scuttling a good program that received near-universal praise from Congress and farmers for a proposal this bad. I'm glad the department paused the program; however, as long as the ERP remains in this broken condition, there is little reason to support its further extension or to fine-tune this failure. Farmers need assistance now, and USDA needs to return to their old program to get these dollars out the door."
Rep. Ronny Jackson (TX-13) said, “When hard times fell on farmers and ranchers, Congress made a conscience decision to support the men and women who dedicate their lives to feed and clothe the world. Farmers have struggled to deal with the Biden administration's radical economic policies, causing a steep rise in input costs and major labor shortages, all on top of catastrophic natural disasters. Instead of distributing disaster relief assistance quickly and efficiently to mitigate weather challenges in 2022, the USDA has radically changed the Emergency Relief Program to prioritize DEI initiatives and make deeper payment cuts that punish full time farmers. As a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Representative for one of the largest agricultural producing districts in the country, I will always be a leader in Congress to ensure our farmers and ranchers get the support they deserve.”
“Farm and ranch families have experienced drought and extreme weather events over the past few years making it extremely difficult to continue operating,” said Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening. “As they face these challenges, it is critical disaster assistance is delivered in a timely, equitable and effective manner. Sadly, the 2022 Emergency Relief Program (ERP) does just the opposite. After waiting for almost a year for assistance, the program simply picks winners and losers based on criteria outside of the farmer’s control. It is extremely important for USDA to reconsider the methodology used to deliver this assistance and for Congress to hold the agency accountable. TFB thanks Chairman Jodey Arrington for leading a letter to express our concerns to USDA. We also appreciate Sens. Cornyn and Cruz and other leaders of the Texas delegation for their support in this effort. TFB stands ready to work with USDA and Congressional leaders to address the inadequacies that exist in this program and deliver proper assistance to the farm and ranch families who need it most.”
“We commend House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington for leading the charge in working to correct a fundamentally flawed disaster aid program that harms Texas farm and ranch families. In leading a bicameral letter to Secretary Vilsack with Senator Roger Marshall, Chairman Arrington made it clear that the Administration broke the law on a number of fronts in developing its regulations and this comes at the direct expense of Texas producers and farm and ranch families across the country. We thank Chairman Arrington for taking a major first step to rectify this matter so producers suffering losses due to drought and other natural disasters receive the help that Congress intended.” Jim Sugarek, President, Southwest Council of Agribusiness said.
“Plains Cotton Growers Inc., strongly supports efforts led by the House, Senate and agriculture industry to rectify the recent disparities created by USDA in the implementation of the Emergency Relief Program for the 2022 crop year,” said Kody Bessent, CEO of Plains Cotton Growers Inc. “USDA is operating on their own accord and against congressional intent in the application of this program, specifically in the newly developed progressive payment factor used to prorate payments inequitably and the biased method used to incorporate producer-paid insurance premiums and fees. Cotton farmers across Texas and the U.S. have been vastly impacted by concurrent events in 2022 brought on by mother nature — this is especially true in the Texas High Plains region. A correctly implemented program by USDA as Congress intended will greatly help the agriculture industry in such times of financial strain and loss. We look forward to continuing the work with Congress to swiftly correct the disparities and inadequacies created by USDA in administrating the ERP for the 2022 crop year.”
“Last year, natural disasters took an enormous toll on our nation’s farmers, many of whom are still struggling to make themselves whole. Yet, instead of meeting their needs, USDA developed an Emergency Relief Program for 2022 that unnecessarily deviates from past practice and will end up penalizing many of the hardest-hit farm families. The National Cotton Council applauds Representative Arrington, Senator Marshall, and the dozens of other Members of Congress who are urging Secretary Vilsack to go back to the drawing board.” National Cotton Council Chairman Shawn Holladay said.