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Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), members of the Senate Ag Committee, led several of their colleagues in requesting that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack address implementation issues with the Emergency Relief Program (ERP), which helps producers offset the impacts of natural disasters that occurred in 2020 and 2021. “USDA’s work in implementing the ERP to help farmers and ranchers who suffered disaster-related losses in 2020 and 2021 has been meaningful to producers around the country,” said the senators. “We appreciate your efforts to streamline the process by allowing the Farm Service Agency to use data already on record with the Risk Management Agency, which has been helpful in expediting the process. We write to bring to your attention issues that have come up with ERP implementation and to request that USDA address these issues expeditiously.”

The letter was also signed by Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

The first issue concerns many producers who, because their cause of loss was attributed to a 2019 event, have Prevented Plant indemnities that were not captured under ERP to receive the top up payments even though farmers suffering losses from the same cause of loss were made eligible because the loss was attributed to a 2020 event.

The second issue concerns how certain producers’ adjusted gross income is calculated in order to be eligible for the higher payment limitation under the program.

The senators also noted they have “heard producers who purchased supplemental crop insurance coverage, such as Supplemental Coverage Option, must wait to receive ERP assistance until the fall, while many producers who did not purchase supplemental coverage may have already received their ERP assistance.”

Comments: It is strange that ERP is there to help producers suffering losses but if the losses are so deep that they have a negative AGI they lose ERP benefits under a technicality. That turns logic on its head. Clearly farm machinery or equipment sales should be counted as farm income but instead farmers must prove 66.66% of income came from farming outside of machinery or equipment sales before such sales can count as farm income. Again, strange ruling. Tax experts have been alerting USDA this is a big problem, and it works an inequity on farmers. Hopefully USDA fixes these and other issues raised by the lawmakers.