The Oregon Legislature this week passed Senate Bill 892, which directs the state Department of Agriculture to establish a disaster assistance program. The Legislature awarded $40 million to this new, one-of-a-kind program to help mitigate economic losses farmers and ranchers sustained because of the compounding natural disasters in 2021, including the ice storm, heat dome, and drought.
“I commend the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kate Brown for their firm support of SB 892,” said Alexis Taylor, Director, ODA. “Over the last two years, Oregon has experienced one natural disaster after another, with the pandemic on top of all of that. I have heard from so many Oregon farmers and ranchers who are concerned how they will make it through next year. The funds provided by SB 892 will keep many operations afloat until the USDA develops its federal disaster program that is expected to be announced by mid-2022. All of us at ODA will work as fast as we can to develop an application and distribution process to get these dollars to those in need.”
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack visited damaged berry farms in the Willamette Valley in August 2021, shortly after the heat dome event that brought temperatures of 117 degrees. During his visit, he and Oregon Governor Kate Brown heard from local farmers and ranchers about the limitation and delay in federal disaster delivery. SB 892 allows ODA to contract with regional lenders to provide localized access to disaster assistance. The intent is to meet the unique needs of Oregon producers, for whom disaster assistance has not typically worked for.
SB 892 gives ODA the authority to contract with lending institutions to administer the disaster assistance program locally. The Legislature designed the loan program to act as a bridge loan or direct assistance while the upcoming federal program is developed. ODA intends to begin the implementation process immediately to serve Oregon’s agricultural community.
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