Lawmakers Press USDA For Ag Funds After Eruption

October 2, 2019, 1:34 PM HST (Updated October 2, 2019, 1:34 PM)
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Park managers to recap success and work ahead a year after Kīlauea caldera’s summit collapse. (April 2019) PC: HVNP

In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation urged the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide relief to Hawai‘i farmers and agricultural producers who were uniquely affected by the Kīlauea eruption.

Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz as well as Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Ed Case signed the joint letter to USDA.

Unlike farmers impacted by floods and wildfires, Hawai‘i producers faced unique losses—including permanent loss of land—due to lava inundation. In their letter to USDA, the Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation emphasized that while current support programs like the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) are well-tailored for victims of other natural disasters, they do not provide adequate relief for victims of volcanic eruptions.

“We understand that you have to consider the entire country when making policy. However, we cannot impress upon you enough the unique nature of the losses experienced by our producers impacted by the volcanic eruption,” the delegation wrote. “While USDA’s existing disaster assistance programs and WHIP+ provide adequate relief for victims of natural disasters such as drought, flooding, wildfires and hurricanes, they do not provide adequate relief for victims of volcanic eruptions. This inadequacy is understandable given the infrequency of devastating volcanic eruptions in the United States. However, we urge the USDA to acknowledge the unique circumstances surrounding the impacts that the eruption has had on our producers to date. As such, we request that USDA make an exception and work with us and our Hawaii producers to provide unique assistance to farmers that were impacted by a truly unique disaster.”

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The Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation has previously written to Secretary Perdue three separate times requesting the agency’s flexibility in helping impacted farmers recover from the natural disasters that occurred in 2018. They most recently wrote to Secretary Perdue in March, stating that the current programs did not adequately meet the needs nor provide the relief necessary for those farmers.

Click here to read the full letter to Secretary Perdue.

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