Senator Clinton Calls on USDA to Extend Deadline for "Buy-In" Program
September 16th is the Deadline for Sign-Up at Local FSA Offices
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today called on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend the September 16, 2008 deadline for farmers to take advantage of the "Buy-In" disaster assistance provision of the 2008 Farm Bill, which allows farmers to gain access to disaster assistance programs even if they have not previously purchased crop insurance or non-insured disaster assistance (NAD). In a bipartisan letter to Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, Senator Clinton and Senator John Thune (R-SD) requested that the USDA allow greater flexibility for farmers and ranchers to understand new Supplemental Disaster Assistance Program requirements and make informed participation decisions.
"Under the Buy-In' provision, New York farmers and growers can benefit from the permanent disaster assistance program we fought for in the Senate Farm Bill, but we need to make sure farmers know how to take advantage of this program. I urge Secretary Schafer to push back the September 16 deadline so the farmers can get the information they need and make the right decisions to protect their crops and farms. We need our New York farmers to check with their local FSA offices to inquire about the provision and sign up," said Senator Clinton.
Last month Senator Clinton sought assurances from Secretary Schafer that the "Buy-In" program, included as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, would be available in the wake of severe weather that has afflicted producers across the state of New York during 2008.
Text of the Senators' letter follows.
September 12, 2008
The Honorable Ed Schafer
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Mr. Secretary
We are writing on behalf of the farmers and ranchers of New York, South Dakota, and across the country with a bipartisan request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implement the Supplemental Disaster Assistance Program contained in the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, in a manner consistent with congressional intent.
Because the program is structured differently than ad hoc disaster packages of the past and contains a number of new conditions for eligibility, farmers and ranchers need a reasonable amount of latitude in understanding and enrolling in this important new program. Specifically, we are concerned with the requirement that appropriate Catastrophic Crop Insurance (CAT) and/or Noninsured Assistance Program (NAP) fees be paid by September 16, 2008. This rapidly approaching deadline may prevent many producers who have suffered losses during the 2008 crop year to participate in the disaster program.
This new program necessitates additional flexibility for producers to understand the program requirements and make educated participation decisions. In order to minimize the potential problems, we urge USDA to use all its authority to extend the "buy-in" deadline to a reasonable period after the program rules and regulations are made public.
We also urge you to establish a procedure that will protect the producers' ability to avail themselves of the disaster program by allowing eligible producers to notify the Farm Service Agency (FSA) of their intention to participate through a variety of means, including telephone, email, fax or in person and then provide a reasonable amount of time for them to complete the steps necessary to fully comply with the participation requirements. We believe this is important because some county FSA offices may be overwhelmed by producers seeking information about 2008 Farm Bill programs.
We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
United States Senator
United States Senator