Late harvest

Early snow delayed harvests statewide, leading to the USDA agreeing to defer interest payments.

Producers will be able to defer accrual of interest for 2019 crop year insurance premiums until the applicable termination date or Jan., 31, 2020, whichever is earlier, the USDA has just announced.

Bill Northey, USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, who recently visited North Dakota to survey losses in the state due to natural disasters, made the announcement during the National Association of Farm Broadcaster’s conference in Kansas City.

In making the announcement, Northey said the extension was made necessary since harvest progress has been very delayed. Crop insurance claims are not typically settled until harvest is complete, which, without a delay, would put an additional squeeze on cashflow for producers.

“We made the case for this additional flexibility during our meetings with Under Secretary Northey and RMA Administrator Barbre and North Dakota producers,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota. “We appreciate USDA for extending this deferral given the cash flow issues facing our producers. We continue working with USDA to provide assistance under MFP and WHIP+ as soon as possible, which will help farmers maintain their operations as they recover from a delayed harvest and other impacts.”

The move builds on a previous steps the federal agency has taken to help North Dakota farmers through a tough spot.

Among these, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently approved North Dakota’s request for a Secretarial disaster designation for 47 counties due to multiple natural disasters in 2019, including extreme late season rainfall and an early snowstorm, that has already cost hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses, with billions more at risk.

The designation will open the door for implementing FSA’s Emergency Farm Loan Program and the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Loan Program for farm-related business. The Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program+ (WHIP+), is also available to eligible producers in presidential disaster-declared and secretarial designated primary counties for 2018 and 2019 qualifying disaster events, which include flooding, snowstorms, tornados and wildfires in North Dakota.

Of the 47 counties approved for the designation, 45 had a minimum 30 percent production loss for at least one crop, Williams and McKenzie Counties among them.

The other two are eligible because of the inability to secure commercial financing to cover losses.

North Dakota’s Congressional delegation and farm groups in North Dakota have also been pushing USDA to accelerate the second round of Market Facilitation Payments, to alleviate the a cash crunch, and to address understaffing at FSA offices.

“Under Secretary Northey has been a vital partner in delivering the assistance our producers need to weather ongoing trade negotiations and disasters,” Hoeven said. “We appreciate his willingness to come to North Dakota to meet with our farmers and see the challenges they face in the field. That firsthand knowledge helps drive home the need to provide assistance under MFP and WHIP+ as soon as possible.”

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