Iowa’s two U.S. senators are working to expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s disaster relief program to include stored grain. Farmers say that could help their losses because of flooding along the Missouri River and its tributaries.
On a Thursday conference call with media, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said she and Sen. Chuck Grassley are working to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s disaster assistance program to cover stored grain, not just crops in the field.
“It doesn’t cover harvested crops that are lost while in storage, like what has happened to so many of our farmers,” Ernst said. “Our amendment is a simple fix to ensure that a harvested crop is covered too.”
Dustin Sheldon farms corn and soybeans in southwest Iowa’s Fremont County. He says flooding has broken some of his grain bins and he’s not yet sure how many bushels he’s lost. He says relief for grain is critical for farmers in southwest Iowa.
“There’s guys that have $750-800,000 worth of grain that’s broken. It’s in the water. It’s destroyed. And [they] don’t know what they’re going to be able to salvage out of that,” Sheldon said.
Sheldon says with money borrowed on that grain, relief from the Department of Ag. could be the difference between farmers selling out and leaving farming, or being able to stay in the business.
Ernst is also pushing for a bill that would make people hit hard by flooding eligible for tax benefits.
Earlier this week, the Senate stalled on a $13 billion disaster aid package that would help people in Iowa and the Midwest affected by flooding. The bill, which would also provide aid to Puerto Rico, got held up because Democrats believed it did not give Puerto Rico enough help.
Asked if a compromise could be reached to help Iowa get disaster aid and also help Puerto Rico, Ernst said she thinks there could be.
“There has been disaster assistance for Puerto Rico already and all of those dollars are yet to be spent,” Ernst said. “So why don’t we focus on those that have suffered from the devastation of 2018, a number of our southern states, the Carolinas, Iowa, Nebraska. So many families need immediate attention, so yes, there can be a compromise.”
She said there were dollars allocated to Puerto Rico in Chair Richard Shelby’s, R-Alabama, disaster relief package, but, “It wasn’t as extensive as the Democrats wanted.”