August 29, 2014

Idaho Delegation Urges Prompt Consideration of Agriculture Disaster Declarations

August storms damage crops in multiple Idaho regions

Twin Falls, Idaho - Heavy and poorly timed August rain storms in the Magic Valley and eastern Idaho have caused significant damage to crops in the region, primarily wheat, barley and hay.  For example, the Twin Falls County Emergency Board notes that more than fifty percent of the value of the grain crop has likely been lost due to the rain and economic losses are estimated to exceed $11 million for that county alone.  In northern Idaho, a severe hail storm damaged significant acreage of grain on the Weippe Prairie.  

Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raúl Labrador  are again emphasizing their support for Idaho farmers by encouraging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promptly review pending disaster declarations requested by Idaho counties.  In a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, the delegation emphasized the extent of weather-related crop damage and encouraged the agency to promptly review and approve disaster requests.  To date, Twin Falls, Jerome, and Clearwater counties have requested disaster declarations, and others may be submitting additional requests in the near future.  If approved, such declarations would make eligible producers within those and neighboring counties qualified for emergency low interest loans from the USDA.

The complete text of the letter can be found below.

 

 

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

 

Severe and uncharacteristic weather has occurred in various locations in Idaho during the month of August.  The result of these storms is adding up to significant losses for farmers.  In multiple locations, excessive rainfall late in the summer amounted to several inches more than what is normal for the region.  These severe rain events could not have come at a worse time as mature wheat and barley crops were nearing harvest.  Other crops, such as hay, peas and beans, have been adversely impacted as well.  In response to these weather events, local Farm Service Agency officials have been working with affected producers to document damage and losses and, in some cases, have requested secretarial disaster declarations for the most affected areas to provide additional opportunities for relief.

 

Agriculture is a central pillar of Idaho's economy and the late summer rains have been very problematic for producers.  For example, the Twin Falls County Emergency Board notes that more than fifty percent of the value of the county's grain crop has likely been lost due to the rain.  Additionally, ninety-five percent of the barley in this area is grown for malting purposes.  However, the excessive August rainfall has caused sprout damage that is making much of the barley crop only suitable for lower priced animal feed.  The Twin Falls County Farm Service Agency states that early economic loss estimates total $12.8 million for that county alone.  Similar situations are occurring for farmers elsewhere in Idaho.  

 

It is clear that these weather events have had a destructive impact on many important agriculture regions in Idaho, making the farm safety net all the more important at this time.  Twin Falls, Jerome and Clearwater counties have already submitted requests for disaster declarations due to adverse weather.  It is our understanding more counties in Idaho may be requesting disaster declarations in the near future and it is our hope that you will promptly review and grant these declarations so our farmers and rural communities may begin to recover as soon as possible.  As affected counties continue the effort to assess, document and report damage, we appreciate the ongoing assistance and resources provided by your agency.     

 

Should you have any questions regarding this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Thank you for your consideration.