Montana, Wyoming Governors Seek Federal Disaster Relief for Crops

December 13, 2019

BILLINGS, Mont. — Montana’s governor requested a disaster designation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 11 counties that reported significant weather-related crop losses, officials said.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock has submitted the request to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, The Billings Gazette reported.

Approval of the request covering 2019 weather damage would make affected producers eligible for emergency loans and other federal emergency assistance programs, officials said.

Approval or disapproval of the disaster designation by the USDA is the final step in a multi-part review process after a governor submits a request, officials said.

Following the governor’s request, Farm Service Agency county offices will be required to collect information for a loss assessment report that will be reviewed by the USDA before a final decision is made about the designation, officials said.

Bullock’s original request in late October sought disaster designations for Daniels, Roosevelt, Sheridan and Valley counties.

Bullock highlighted excessive rain and snow in late September and early October as a factor in damaged grain crops, including about 312 square miles (808 square kilometers) in Valley County that was downgraded from milling to feed grain quality.

Additional petitions for disaster designation were subsequently sent to the governor’s office from Big Horn, Carbon, McCone, Richland, Rosebud, Treasure and Yellowstone counties.

Richland County commissioners cited a likely loss of $6.9 million in sugar beet crops. A portion of the crops went unharvested, while 186,000 tons (168,736 metric tons) were frozen, with 30,000 tons (27,216 metric tons) unlikely to be processed, officials said.

Richland officials reported additional losses for safflower, spring wheat, lentils and chickpeas.

The disaster aid request from Montana comes a week after Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon asked for a federal disaster declaration to help farmers affected by cold weather in October.

Two cold spells with warm weather in between harmed sugar beet crops in northern and southeastern Wyoming.

The first cold spell halted sugar beet growth. Ensuing warm weather caused beets to rot in storage. The second cold spell made harvesting more beets impossible, Gordon told Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue in a letter Thursday.

Gordon wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare Laramie, Goshen and Platte counties in southeastern Wyoming and Park and Big Horn counties in northern Wyoming federal disaster areas.

The designation would enable affected farmers to qualify for financial aid to address the crop losses.

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