Heitkamp calls for FSA jump teams to assist offices in western North Dakota
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today called on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to deploy supplemental staff members to local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices in western North Dakota.
Local FSA offices are being overwhelmed by applications for assistance due to the severe drought and the end of harvest when during normal times, these offices are at their busiest. FSA employees are working hard to meet demand, but understaffed offices have been unable to fill vacant positions and are struggling to handle the volume of applications fast enough for farmers and ranchers who have suffered losses.
Following outreach from Heitkamp in July, USDA announced it would send extra workers to each of the FSA offices in McHenry, Mountrail, Bowman, Golden Valley, Hettinger, and Stark counties to help process requests from farmers and reduce wait times. Those jump teams were deployed until the end of September when the fiscal year ended. Now those offices again need more staff.
“When farmers and ranchers walk in to an FSA office, they show up to get help – not an IOU,” said Heitkamp. “The drought has increased demand on our FSA offices, so we should be increasing the staff to adequately serve our farm communities. I greatly appreciate Secretary Perdue heeding my call for jump teams to be deployed over the summer, and they are needed once again to address the high volume of assistance applications due to the ongoing drought, especially during harvest. This is about getting our farmers and ranchers the assistance they need in a timely manner, so we must ensure that our FSA offices get immediate help and are also able to hire the full time staff necessary to serve our rural communities. ”
Click here to read Heitkamp’s letter to Secretary Perdue.
Heitkamp visited FSA offices in Stark and Dunn counties during her drought and farm bill tour in August. Read about her tour here.
In June, Heitkamp pressed the USDA to guarantee that FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field staff – whose support farmers and ranchers rely on – won’t be reduced as part of the drastic 21 percent budget cuts the president has proposed at USDA.
Heitkamp has repeatedly taken action on the concerns she’s heard from farmers and ranchers during the drought. She has called on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen to allow ranchers to defer paying capital gains tax for a two year period on the sale of cattle due to the ongoing severe drought.
Heitkamp also successfully pressed USDA leaders to take bold action to help drought-impacted farmers and ranchers in North Dakota by designating agricultural disasters in counties in the state that have been severely impacted by drought. That designation opened up FSA disaster relief programs that Heitkamp pushed for in the Farm Bill, including emergency loans, to North Dakota farmers and ranchers. Producers in eligible counties have eight months to apply for emergency loans.
Heitkamp has also launched a webpage aimed to provide useful information that can help connect North Dakota farmers, ranchers and community members with the federal, state, and local resources – from haying and grazing options to tax information to mental health services – to help them cope and weather this drought. Click here to view Senator Heitkamp’s webpage. F