Snowy field

Snow covers an unharvested field earlier this month in central North Dakota. A cold, wet fall, followed by early season snow — heavy in some places — left many farmers unable to finish harvesting.

Forty-two of 51 counties in North Dakota have been designated as disaster areas, and that has the North Dakota Farmers Union urging that the federal administration accelerate Market Facilitation Payments and lift a $3 billion cap on WHIP+, a disaster-aid program.

NDFU President Mark Watne said the farm economy has continued worsening, amid a damaging trade war that has lately been compounded by multiple weather woes, including so much late moisture it has not only delayed harvest, but in many cases made it all but impossible.

“Farm families need income now,” Watne said in a media release. “Getting cash into their hands will help with operating loans and minimize interest on those loans.”

So far, farmers enrolled in MFP have received 50 percent of a calculated payment for crops that were covered under Title 1 of the Farm Bill, Watne said. The amount of those payments varied widely by county, ranging from $15 to $150 an acre, depending on where a producer’s fields are located.

Williams County’s payment was $17 per acre up to what was planted in 2018. That was $2 more per acre than neighboring McKenzie County and Richland County, Montana, but far less than counties such as Cass, where farmers received up to $57 per eligible acre.

The first payment was one of three potential rounds of funding. The USDA said at the time the remaining two 25 percent payments in November and January would depend on whether market conditions and trade opportunities failed to improve.

“Regardless of an expectation that maybe soybean purchases from China will happen yet, the market doesn’t move on potential,” Watne said. “It moves on realities.

Watne said USDA should also consider payments for non-exported crops that have been affected domestically by the trade war, and by additional basis and transportation costs.

North Dakota’s Congressional delegation all told the Williston Herald that they are working on solutions for agricultural producers to one degree or another.

Rep. Armstrong said he was for anything that would help producers.

“We need to do everything we possibly can to help with what has been unbelievably destructive weather over the last month,” U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-North Dakota, said. “Expedited MFP payments, WHIP+, disaster relief. Everything should be on the table, and we are working with USDA to get relief out the door as fast as we can.”

Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, meanwhile, pointed out that he was among those advocating to fund the WHIP+ program, which will provide relief to producers who faced too much moisture or snow during this growing season.

“We provided $3 billion in funding for the WHIP+ program, and while damages in North Dakota are still being assessed, we continue to work with USDA to ensure they have the resources needed to cover producers losses,” he said. “USDA is working to get the first half of this round of MFP payments out now, and we will work with them to get the remainder out as soon as possible.”

A representative of Hoeven’s office told the Williston Herald that if more funding is needed for WHIP+, the Senator will work to procure it.

Senator Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, said he appreciated efforts being made on the state level by Gov. Doug Burgum and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring on behalf of farmers, as well as work being done by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, which he characterized as “consistently responsive to the needs of the agriculture community in North Dakota.”

“Our producers are the best in the world,” Cramer said. “And I will continue to monitor the efficacy of (the MFP and WHIP+ programs) while working with the Governor, Commissioner and Secretary to ensure this community has access to the resources they need.”

Asked if that meant Cramer would support lifting the cap on WHIP+, a representative of the Senator’s office repeated the same quote.

Watne wants farmers to keep submitting documentation to the state’s congressional delegation, particularly as it relates to the WHIP+ Program for excessive moisture and snowfall, to try and get the cap lifted.

“It is our understanding the program is capped at $3 billion nationwide,” he added. “That cap should be removed to address the magnitude of the disaster here in North Dakota and in multiple regions of the country.”

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