WASHINGTON,—As Congress works to finalize the FY 2023 Omnibus appropriations package, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.-02), and the Connecticut and Rhode Island Congressional Delegations are pressing for additional funding to assist New England livestock feed producers and other farmers impacted by severe drought conditions. Today, Courtney and Murphy shared a letter they sent to House and Senate appropriators along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.-01), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.-05), Jim Himes (D-Conn.-04), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.-02) and John B. Larson (D-Conn.-01), urging them to replenish funds for critical USDA disaster relief programs and to expand relief to cover farmers’ losses in 2022, in addition to 2021 and 2020. Click here to read the full letter.

In August, the USDA announced a primary agricultural disaster designation for counties Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island due to severe drought conditions. The designation allowed many farmers and producers to access critical disaster relief loans through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), as well as other important USDA relief programs. However, in their letter, the coalition highlighted that certain critical producers still need assistance:

“We are thankful that these various [USDA] programs are available to help impacted producers in our States, but we are concerned that some producers have been left out of this assistance. Specifically, livestock forage (feed) producers are in dire need of help.”

According to the FSA’s Connecticut Division and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the drought has impacted the availability of feed and silage for agricultural producers. Some have reported losses of average hay production as high as 55%. The FSA warns that this could cause large price increases for many agricultural products this winter, and that the regional feed shortage will have ripple effects on local dairy enterprises.

The coalition noted that this presents a particularly difficult challenge to New England agricultural producers, many of whom have found themselves ineligible for FSA and USDA programs meant to provide relief in these sorts of emergencies:

“Although FSA operates assistance programs that support producers who grow forage for their own livestock if they are grazing livestock, New England has many producers who have livestock but do not graze, and many others who grow forage for sale to other livestock producers and therefore are also not eligible to participate in forage-related assistance programs.”

“Many other federal programs that exist to help producers with drought and emergency situations are similarly unavailable to forage producers impacted by drought. In discussions with USDA, our staff recently learned that forage producers are also ineligible for assistance under Emergency Relief Program authorities, as the ERP only covers losses from 2020 and 2021.”

To protect New England’s dairy farming heritage and family farm businesses, and to prevent farming land from being sold-off for alternative uses, the Connecticut and Rhode Island Congressional delegations are urging House and Senate appropriators to replenish funds from the Emergency Relief Program (ERP) and expand ERP authorities to cover losses incurred in 2022, as well as in 2021 and 2020, in the FY 2023 Omnibus appropriations package.

More details on the FY 2023 Omnibus appropriations package will be available soon. Click here to read the coalition’s full letter.