It has been a year of challenges for the Cornhusker State, with perhaps none bigger than this spring’s disastrous bomb cyclone storm. Towns were underwater, roads and bridges closed, farms and livestock were destroyed, and at least three Nebraskans lost their lives. While the extent of the flooding and damage was heartbreaking, I was inspired by Nebraskans’ sense of community and willingness to help one another recover.
In order to help those communities rebuild, I fought hard to include provisions for Nebraskans in the $19 billion disaster relief bill that passed this summer. Our state is now beginning to see the benefits of those provisions as we continue on the road to recovery.
The first provision went into effect in September, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that more than $3 billion is available for disaster relief for agricultural producers, including Nebraska ag producers affected by flooding, through the agency’s Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus, or WHIP+ for the 2018, 2019, and 2020 crop years. Nebraska producers can apply for up to $125,000 for losses related to flooding, and some producers can receive a higher payment – as much as $250,000 per crop year with a total combined payment limitation of $500,000 for the 2018, 2019, and 2020 crop years– if 3/4 of their income is derived from farming or another agriculture-based business.
Later that month, USDA announced funding from another provision I worked to include in the disaster relief bill. USDA said producers participating in federal crop insurance who have a payable prevented planting indemnity from flooding will automatically receive a “top-up” payment from their Approved Insurance Providers starting in mid-October. With wet fields from flooding, many of our farmers lost planting acreage. These resources will help those farmers bring their businesses back on track.
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Most recently, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will use $1 billion to repair damage to infrastructure from natural disasters in eight states, including levees in Nebraska. The account funding these repairs originally had $0, but due to the negotiation efforts of myself and others it had $1 billion by the time the disaster relief bill was signed into law. This year’s flooding highlights how important Nebraska’s levee systems are, and it’s good to see they are receiving resources for these badly needed repairs.
Of course, there is still more work to be done rebuilding the Good Life. In July, central Nebraska was hit hard with flooding that resulted in major damage. Along with Congressman Adrian Smith, I visited the communities of Lexington, Kearney, and Gibbon, where I saw the impact of the flooding and visited with Nebraska families and communities affected. During the state fair, I led a roundtable discussion on disaster relief with Governor Ricketts and Congressman Smith, where we heard from farmers and producers about the ongoing challenges related to flooding.
The flash flood warnings across eastern Nebraska this fall remind us that extreme weather will remain a concern, even as many parts of the state are still damaged from the previous flooding. Nonetheless, this year’s disaster relief bill has helped to ensure that hardworking Nebraskans have the resources to address damage from extreme weather through prevention and recovery. I will continue to advocate for Nebraska in the Senate so our farmers, producers, families, and communities are always represented, especially during the hard times.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.