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ARRA Funds Help Keep Washington Farmers Afloat

A bad year forced Klickitat County farmer Kelly Kreps to choose between fertilizing his fields or paying taxes and insurance. Even though his operation suffered freeze-related losses, Kreps’s ranch didn’t qualify for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster payments program. That was until last year’s stimulus legislation.

“The stimulus funds allowed us to pay our fuel bills so we could fertilize,” said Kreps, co-owner of Kreps Ranch LLC. “This money helped shore up our losses on the ag side of our business and kept us from having to sell a piece of property.”

The Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program (SURE) from FSA is available to farmers and ranchers when a county receives a disaster designation by the Secretary of Agriculture or when production is less than half of normal.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), also known as the Recovery Act, increased FSA’s funding and allowed more producers to receive SURE payments. Recovery Act funds apply to 2008 and 2009 crop year losses and are in addition to the more than $24 million in SURE funding Washington State FSA is already distributing.

Kreps was one of 541 Washington state producers benefitting from almost $3.5 million in additional Recovery Act state funding for loans and crop damages. He was also one of 74 farmers and ranchers statewide who wouldn’t have qualified for SURE disaster recovery funding if it wasn’t for the stimulus legislation.

Like most other Washington producers receiving FSA funding, Kreps is a smaller family operation.  Kreps Ranch LLC has roughly 600 head of cattle and a portion of land in agricultural production. “Our expenses have risen four-fold since 1987,” Kreps said. “SURE has been great -and is really helping out.”

Another Klickitat grower, Dennis Beeks, who owns Migaki Orchards, was helped by the Recovery Act legislation after he also experienced crop damage due to freeze. “These SURE payments kept us from borrowing from the bank. Without them we would have gone broke,” said Beeks.

Extreme cold throughout the region forced the Beeks operation to question whether or not to pick their cherries at all. “Our harvest was low but could have been worse,” said Beeks. “The SURE payments really helped.”

Migaki Orchards used their funding for spray and fuel bills and for wages for their two regular employees, plus 200 seasonal staff on the 70-acre orchard.

A majority of producers receiving disaster funds live in eastern Washington where 16 counties added to their SURE payments with Recovery Act money. Producers receiving disaster assistance from both the stimulus and original sources averaged $26,000 in assistance funds. About 30 percent of Eastern Washington SURE payments were made from ARRA funds.

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