North Dakota and its Congressional delegation unveiled a push to get a Secretarial Disaster Designation for North Dakota producers on Friday, Nov. 1. They said the designation is needed due to an early October snowstorm that has left many crops standing, unharvested, in water.

Gov. Doug Burgum sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking for the designation, which would make additional federal assistance available, such as WHIP+, to producers who face an extremely wet harvest condition right now.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s State Emergency Board has meanwhile voted to concur with crop loss reports from county FSA boards in North Dakota that put damages at north of $423 million per eligible county, and forward that information to the national FSA office, along with a request for a secretarial disaster declaration.

Burgum and Goehring are also united in urging USDA release its next round of Market Facilitation Program payments, due in November, as soon as possible.

That echoes a call earlier this month from NDFU President Mark Watne that urged USDA to consider releasing MFP payments early, and to consider lifting a $3 billion cap on the WHIP+ program.

Watne praised Burgum and Goehring for their efforts.

“It is important that this step be completed to enable farmers to qualify for Whip+,” he told the Williston Herald. “We also need the second payment for MFP to be sent out immediately to help farmers with cash flow needs as the harvest is delayed and crop losses are growing larger and larger.”

Goehring and Burgum said the early October snowstorm combined with widespread flooding and high winds has caused hundreds of millions in commodity losses for many of North Dakota’s producers.

“The unusual and relentless wet weather pattern has created an overwhelming situation for many North Dakota farmers and ranchers. It has been one of the toughest seasons on record,” Goehring said. “We appreciate the help of the delegation, FSA and other agencies in requesting this designation; and we thank Secretary Perdue for his consideration in order to provide access to federal resources for our producers.”

To qualify for the secretarial designation, counties must experience at least a 30 percent production loss of at least one crop due to a natural disaster. So far, 47 of North Dakota’s 53 counties meet that threshold, Burgum said in his letter to Perdue. Six others are seeking a deferral to determine if there is a qualifying loss.

“We’re committed to making sure North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers have access to every available resource to cope with these unprecedented and miserably wet fall harvest conditions,” Burgum said. “Secretary Perdue has been very responsive and understanding of the extremely difficult situation facing our ag producers, and we appreciate his consideration of a disaster designation to help them through these stressful times.”

FSA estimates of crop damage in each county find $423 million just for the one crop in each county with at least 30 percent loss, according to a release from Burgum and Goehring. That doesn’t count additional crops that are at risk, nor does it include significant livestock losses suffered across the state.

It has been the wettest year on record, North Dakota’s Congressional delegation pointed out in a separate letter supporting Burgum’s request for a Secretarial designation.

“Since Sept. 1, rainfall totals in areas of northwest and north-central North Dakota have reached upwards of 8 inches, accounting for more than 500 percent of the normal average precipitation for the same time period,” the delegates wrote in their letter. “This extreme rainfall has caused significant delays for those attempting to harvest their crops.”

According to the latest USDA crop report, no corn or sunflowers and very few sugarbeet and soybean acres have been harvested so far this year. Only half of the potato acres are in the bin.

“Combined with recent heavy snowfall, farmers have been left with a crop worth only a fraction of its original value, or no value at all,” the letter continues.

A Secretarial Disaster Designation is needed to help ensure North Dakota producers can access programs like the Wildifre and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+), which were designed to help with such situations.

“We urge you to approve a secretarial disaster designation as soon as possible so that the necessary federal resources are available to help our producers and assist our state during this hardship,” the legislators concluded.

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