Letter to Hon. Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture - Expanding Agricultural Assistance to Washington and Oregon Farmers


Dear Secretary Vilsack:

Thank you for your continued work to deliver relief to our farmers, ranchers, Tribes, and
communities in the Pacific Northwest impacted by severe weather events. To support those
efforts, Congress provided $10 billion to cover qualifying losses experienced by agricultural
producers as part of H.R.5305, the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency
Assistance Act. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) works to swiftly implement the
program, we write to urge you to utilize the full eligibilities provided in the statute to assist
producers in our states hit hard by extreme heat, drought, wildfires, smoke exposure, and related
crop quality losses. Additionally, we request that USDA offer guidance as soon as practicable on
what types of documentation will be needed for farmers so that they can be ready and able to
access this assistance.

A number of us wrote to you in July regarding the extreme heat, drought, low soil moisture, and
wildfires the Pacific Northwest experienced this summer, with temperatures reaching as high as
120 degrees Fahrenheit. As we mentioned then, many of the producers who suffered some of the
greatest heat-related losses--scorched fruit, damaged canes, increased shellfish mortality--were
either located in counties not covered by the drought designations, experienced losses not
covered by drought assistance programs, or both. To better address the extent of these losses,
Congress provided new flexibilities in H.R.5305 to amend the previous Wildfire and Hurricane
Indemnity Program-Plus (WHIP+) authorization, including coverage for losses related to
excessive heat and smoke exposure for wine grapes--and inclusive of crop quality loss and
damage to on-farm stored commodities.

As USDA drafts guidelines for the new program, we ask that you work with producers to include
temperature-based thresholds for eligibility to capture heat-related losses, similar to extreme
temperature models utilized in the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program. This will be
critical for berry crops, shellfish, tree fruits, potatoes, dairy products, and beef cattle in parts of
the Pacific Northwest which suffered some of the greatest yield and quality losses as a result of
the severe heat wave, but may not operate in counties covered by D3 or 8-week D2 drought

We urge prompt implementation of this critical assistance and appreciate your continued work to
deliver relief to our agricultural producers in the Pacific Northwest impacted by severe weather
events. Thank you for your consideration.