Peter DeFazio

07/27/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/27/2021 13:00

DeFazio, Western State Lawmakers Push for More Relief Following Historic Wildfires, Droughts, Heat

Today, Congressman Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04) joined a bipartisan, bicameral effort to secure more relief for farmers, ranchers, and other agriculture producers in the western United States affected by historic wildfires, droughts, and extreme heat. In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the lawmakers urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to open relief programs up to more producers that have lost crops and livestock to the ongoing droughts, extreme heat, and wildfires.

In addition to droughts and wildfires, an extreme heatwave hit the Pacific Northwest in June with temperatures reaching as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In response, Secretary Vilsack issued several disaster designations, unlocking vital federal resources. However, many of the producers who suffered the greatest heat-related losses were either located in counties not covered by the drought designations, experienced losses not covered by drought assistance programs, or both.

'Although the extent of damages relating to the extreme heat has yet to be fully determined, agricultural producers expect these impacts to be severe,' the lawmakers wrote. 'We respectfully request USDA explore all potential flexibilities for additional relief within existing programs and identify other options to deliver federal relief to producers in our states so they have the resources to overcome the extreme drought and heat crisis.'

Reports across the Pacific Northwest and Western states indicate berry crops, tree fruits, grain and pulse crops, potatoes, hops, dairy products, forage crops, wine grapes, nursery crops, poultry, beef cattle, and general livestock experienced excessive heat impacts to yield and quality. Specific examples of the impact of these extreme weather events include:

  • Raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry farmers are reporting widespread losses of 20 to 80 percent of their crops and harm to the canes that will produce next year's crop.
  • Cherry growers in the west have so far lost an estimated 20 percent of their overall crop.
  • Early modeling for shellfish suggests an estimated 1 billion sea creatures died along the Salish Sea's coastline with reported mortality rates for certain shellfish farmers up to 90 percent.
  • For crops including apples and pears, the full extent of losses may not be known until harvest in the fall, or even later if damage manifests in storage.

The letter also encourages USDA to work with Congress to provide technical assistance as lawmakers craft additional authorities and appropriations to address the 2020 and 2021 seasons that include wildfire, drought, and excessive heat-related losses.

The letter is signed by Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Kelly Armstrong (ND-At Large), Cliff Bentz (OR-02), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Liz Cheney (WY-At Large), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Jerry McNearney (CA-09), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Devin Nunes (CA-22), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Matt Rosendale (MT-At Large), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), Mike Simpson (ID-02), Adam Smith (WA-09), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Mike Thompson (CA-05), and Senators Patty Murray (WA), Maria Cantwell (WA), Kevin Cramer (ND), Mike Crapo (ID), Steve Daines (ID), John Hoeven (ND), Jeff Merkley (OR), James E. Risch (ID), Jon Tester (MT), and Ron Wyden (OR).

The full letter can be found here.