February 05, 2024

Warren, Markey Urge Schumer, McConnell, Senate Appropriation Leaders to Provide Robust Disaster Relief Funding for Massachusetts Farmers

“(W)e urge you to include robust funding for the United States Department of Agriculture to compensate farmers for uncovered losses caused by natural disasters.”

Letter Text (PDF)

Washington, D.C.  –  U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Appropriations Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine), urging them to include robust funding for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the final FY24 appropriations package to compensate Massachusetts farmers for losses caused by natural disasters. This comes after extreme weather events of the past year — including freezes and floods — ruined nearly 3,000 acres of crops in Massachusetts and cost farmers at least $49 million in farm losses.

“We have repeatedly asked Congress to provide disaster assistance for farmers and were pleased that President Biden’s October 25, 2023 domestic supplemental funding request included help for farmers and ranchers hit by disaster,” wrote the senators. “However, the President’s $2.8 billion request is woefully insufficient to cover the $8.5 billion in expected losses incurred nationwide in calendar year 2023. And the $8.5 billion estimate does not include losses suffered by farmers with whom USDA has not had contact.”

After the weather events of last year, USDA issued disaster declarations which unlocked low-interest loans for farmers and provided access to the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), a cost-share program aimed at helping cover the cost of repairing damaged farmland. But, USDA loans and cost-share assistance are insufficient to meet the current needs of Massachusetts farms. Many Massachusetts farmers already took on debt in order to plant last year’s crops and cannot afford to repay additional loans. Meanwhile, most of the state’s farmers lack crop insurance, leaving them without access to compensation for these weather-related losses.  

“Massachusetts farms are in dire need of grant-based federal aid to compensate for crop loss. We request that Congress appropriate funding to USDA that can be distributed to Massachusetts farmers in the form of direct grants, to compensate for the loss of revenue and quality or production losses of crops . . . due to flooding, freeze, tornadoes, and frost,” concluded the senators. 

Senator Warren has consistently pushed for federal relief to aid Massachusetts farmers impacted by natural disasters: 

  1. In October 2023, Senators Warren and Markey sent a letter to Senators Schumer, McConnell, Murray, and Collins urging them to support disaster assistance to compensate Massachusetts farmers for crop losses from recent extreme weather events in any end-of-year appropriations package Congress considers.
  2. In August 2023, Senators Warren and Markey, along with Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent a letter to President Joe Biden, thanking his administration for its support for New England communities that suffered catastrophic flooding in July 2023, and requesting that President Biden continue to address the ongoing needs of these communities in any upcoming disaster supplemental appropriations request to Congress. 
  3. In August 2023, Senators Warren and Markey, along with Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Richard Neal (D-Mass), applauded USDA’s declaration of county disaster designations for seven counties in Western Massachusetts, following storms and floods that devastated communities and farmers in the region. USDA’s declaration follows the lawmakers’ July 21, 2023 letter requesting USDA issue this disaster declaration to give farmers and community members access to emergency funds for recovery. 
  4. In July 2023, Senators Warren and Markey, along with Congressmen McGovern and Neal, sent a letter to USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack and Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux regarding storms and floods in Massachusetts and urging the agency to act to provide emergency assistance to support local recovery efforts in Massachusetts communities.