The U.S. House Agriculture Committee has added Iowa Congressman Randy Feenstra’s proposal for derecho relief to the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill Democrats are planning to pass.
Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, says the bill sets aside a total of $4 billion for U.S.D.A. programs.
“There’s part of the bill that sort of looked at helping producers, especially when it came to catastrophes, but the catastrophe was not identified,” Feenstra says, “so I created an amendment that identified catastrophe…as derechos or hurricanes or fires.”
Feenstra’s amendment directs theU.S.D.A.’s Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program to distribute relief for losses due to the August 10 derecho that flattened crops, silos, and farm buildings.
“We’re hoping that stays when it goes to the Senate and that we have some disaster relief for those that really struggled through the derecho,” Feenstra says. “People don’t realize this, but it affects about 43% of Iowa’s crops last year, so there’s a lot of people that are still struggling.”
The USDA’s Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program not only helps individual farming operations, but non-profits and businesses can apply for assistance. That means grain elevators that were damaged by the derecho might qualify if Feenstra’s measure remains part of the pandemic relief package.
Feenstra was the only Republican on the committee to have an amendment adopted to the Democrats’ plan. It passed on a 24 to 23 vote — with Iowa Congresswoman Cindy Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, casting the deciding vote in favor of Feenstra’s proposal. Axne and Feenstra are both members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.
(Matt McWilliams, KICD, Spencer contributed to this story.)