Padilla, Feinstein, Thompson, LaMalfa Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Create Permanent Disaster Relief Program for Farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein (both D-Calif.) and Representatives Mike Thompson (D-Calif.-04) and Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.-01) announced the introduction of the Agricultural Emergency Relief Act to create a permanent structure at the Department of Agriculture to provide relief for farmers who lost crops due to natural disasters.

While Congress routinely provides relief for farmers impacted by natural disasters, the lack of a permanent program has resulted in multiple administrative changes, which can cause unnecessary delays in implementation and confusion for farmers.

“Our farming communities have felt the devastating impacts of climate change firsthand as drought, floods, fires, and smoke have threatened their livelihoods and the economic viability of agriculture in California and across the nation,” said Senator Padilla. “Our growers need and deserve relief quickly – there must be a long-term solution to ensure they can get back on their feet in the face of natural disasters. By permanently authorizing the Emergency Relief Program, this bill would bolster the safety net for the people that produce our food and improve farmers’ resiliency against the climate crisis.”

“Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of natural disasters and farmers across the country are bearing the brunt of these events,” said Senator Feinstein. “Unfortunately, there is not a permanent relief program for farmers who lose crops during a disaster, creating unnecessary delays and confusion whenever Congress approves relief. Our bill fixes that. It would create a permanent structure for the program and improve the process for all farmers, including those that grow specialty crops.”

“California has been ground zero for the impacts of climate change, and farmers and growers in our state and across our country are seeing the impact of climate-related disasters on their crops,” said Representative Thompson. “I authored legislation to create the Emergency Relief Program to provide our agriculture community with financial relief to cover disaster-related crop losses, but as climate change continues to worsen, it’s clear that this program needs to be made permanent. Proud to have introduced legislation with Senators Feinstein and Padilla and Representative LaMalfa to make the Emergency Relief Program permanent and streamline the process for all farmers and growers to receive the relief that deserve.”

“American farmers and ranchers, especially those in California, must sometimes face devastation from natural disasters. When a food producer suffers crop losses, they are forced to deal with a complicated and lengthy process to get financial relief. There are farmers in California who are still waiting on aid for losses from several growing seasons ago,” said Representative LaMalfa. “Creating a permanent disaster program – especially for specialty crop producers – is essential to ensure family farms stay in operation and our nation’s food security is preserved.”

The Agricultural Emergency Relief Act would:

  • Create a permanent structure of the USDA’s Emergency Relief Program
    • The program was originally established through language in the fiscal year 2022 emergency supplemental appropriations bill and received additional appropriations in the fiscal year 2023 omnibus, but has not been formally authorized.
  • Include as eligible disasters droughts, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, derechos, excessive heat, excessive moisture, winter storms and freeze events, including polar vortexes.
  • Require farmers who apply for relief payments to purchase crop insurance for two years after receiving a payment.
  • Allow payment calculations to be based on indemnities reported to USDA or on losses in revenue to better accommodate specialty crop growers.
  • Allow Congress to continue to appropriate supplemental disaster funds in response to the level of damage incurred in a specific year or event.