Federal Disaster Assistance

On September 9, Secretary Perdue announced that agricultural producers affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 can apply for assistance through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Sign-up for this U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program began Sept. 11, 2019. More than $3 billion is available through the disaster relief package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in early June. WHIP+ builds on the successes of its predecessor program the 2017 Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP) that was authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. In addition, the relief package included new programs to cover losses for milk dumped or removed from the commercial market and losses of eligible farm stored commodities due to eligible disaster events in 2018 and 2019. Also, prevented planting supplemental disaster payments will provide support to producers who were prevented from planting eligible crops for the 2019 crop year. WHIP+ will be available for eligible producers who have suffered eligible losses of certain crops, trees, bushes or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only). All Illinois counties have received a Secretarial Disaster Declaration.

WHIP+ is assistance for quantity losses, not quality losses. Assistance will be a percentage bump up (10% or 15% - if you had Harvest Price Option (HPO)) on indemnity, not guarantee. If you have bushels, but they are poor quality, and no crop insurance – then there’s no WHIP+ payment. There are the usual payment limits. At this point, it is unclear whether Farm Service Agency or Risk Management Agency will dole out the money.

In addition to the disaster assistance provided by the Secretarial Declaration, 32 Illinois counties are waiting to learn if the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse local governments for fighting the 2019 flood. Governor Pritzker made the request for FEMA assistance on August 29, claiming $61 million in damages. 11 counties are seeking reimbursement for public assistance, and 21 are looking for both public and individual assistance. 

IFB President Richard L. Guebert, Jr., issued this statement:  

“Most of this year has tested Illinois farmers’ mental and physical fortitude. Weather variability, from unrelenting spring rains to extreme July heat, has caused uncertainty in our communities as we head toward what is sure to be a long harvest. The Secretarial Disaster Declaration is a recognition of our struggles in 2019 through the availability of federal resources to aid our recovery. With this declaration, Illinois farmers will be eligible to access other forms of assistance from the USDA. 

We extend our sincere thanks to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan for their fight to get the declaration approved. We are also grateful to the USDA for their recognition of Illinois farmers’ trying times, and to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for his continued support.”  


Q: Where is Illinois in the process of a disaster declaration?
A: All 102 counties in Illinois received a disaster declaration from the Secretary of Agriculture on August 14, 2019. 
Q: What does a disaster declaration mean? 

A: The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to designate counties as disaster areas to make emergency (EM) loans available to producers suffering losses in those counties and in counties that are contiguous to a designated county. In addition to EM loan eligibility, other emergency assistance programs, such as Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster assistance programs, have historically used disaster designations as an eligibility trigger. USDA Secretarial disaster designations must be requested of the Secretary of Agriculture by a governor or the governor’s authorized representative, by an Indian Tribal Council leader or by an FSA State Executive Director (SED).  

Presidential major disaster declarations, which must be requested of the President by a governor, are administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Governor Pritzker officially submitted a disaster request of FEMA on August 29, claiming $69 million in damages in 33 counties. The Illinois congressional delegation wrote to President Trump supporting the submission of a request to FEMA. Illinois’ application, using data compiled by teams of IEMA, FEMA and Small Business Administration staff, seeks assistance for local governments as well as help for individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. Some counties seek both types of assistance, while others are pursuing one or the other. Except for Jo Daviess County, all the counties along the Mississippi River are part of the FEMA request along with several counties on the Illinois River.

Both types of designation (Secretarial disaster designations, Presidential disaster declarations) immediately trigger the availability of low-interest FSA EM loans to eligible producers in all primary and contiguous counties.

On September 19, FEMA approved Illinois’ request for public disaster assistance in 27 counties along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. FEMA’s decision on the state’s request for individual assistance in 22 counties is still pending, according to the IEMA.

Q: What does the disaster legislation that was signed for 2018/2019 provide? 

A: The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 covers disasters that occurred in 2018 and 2019, and those that have yet to occur in 2019. It does give the USDA the authority to compensate losses caused by prevented planting in 2019 up to 90%, for producers with qualifying losses in a Secretarial or Presidentially declared disaster area. While the authority exists, USDA must operate within finite appropriations limits. It is highly unlikely that the supplemental appropriation will support that level (up to 90%) of coverage in addition to crop insurance. Congress appropriated $3.005 billion in assistance for a wide array of losses resulting from disasters throughout 2018 and 2019, requiring USDA to prioritize how it is allocated. The Department plans to provide assistance on prevented planting losses within the confines of our authority. As a reminder, Illinois received $1.1 billion in MFP last year. This legislation provides $3 billion for the country and covers multiple disasters, including wildfires and hurricanes. 

Secretarial disasters also trigger emergency assistance for livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish, authorized in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill). You can find more details here:  

There were additional changes to the Livestock Indemnity Program under the 2018 Farm Bill, as well as the Livestock Forage Disaster Program A map for eligible counties for the Livestock Forage Disaster drought may be found here