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Blumenthal Introduces Legislation to Protect Small Farms

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today announced the Save Our Small (SOS) Farms Act of 2024, legislation to improve access to disaster assistance programs and crop insurance for small-sized farms.

“Extreme flooding and droughts have devastated Connecticut small farms in recent years. Climate change has made it abundantly clear that we need a stronger safety net that better supports farmers facing the unique challenges plaguing New England farms,” said Blumenthal. “Our measure makes necessary reforms to programs that simply do not work for farmers by making coverage and assistance more accessible and affordable than before. Small farms are an essential part of our state’s culture, environment, and economy—they deserve protection when a disaster strikes.”

“Connecticut farmers have always been the core of our rural communities, but as they often run small operations, they face some unique challenges. It’s increasingly difficult for them to recover from massive crop losses when extreme weather hits, like the flooding last summer, because they often don’t qualify for traditional crop insurance or existing disaster relief programs. By expanding coverage and assistance, lowering costs for small farmers, and directing the USDA to develop more responsive coverage options, this legislation would ensure our small farmers have the support they need to weather future storms,” said Murphy.

The Non-Insured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) offers farmers the opportunity to purchase coverage for losses due to natural disasters in areas where crop insurance coverage is unavailable. Unfortunately, payouts from NAP are often delayed and insufficient. In 2022, only 19% of the 1.9 million farms in the U.S. were enrolled in crop insurance, so NAP becomes their only lifeline in the absence of bipartisan supplemental disaster funding.

Last year, unprecedented flooding throughout the region devastated Connecticut farms resulting in significant crop losses. In 2022, Connecticut saw one of the worst droughts in recent memory. However, barriers to crop insurance eligibility requirements prevented many Connecticut farms from receiving necessary federal assistance.

The SOS Farms Act would help farmers who rely on NAP by lowering the cost of purchasing coverage, reducing paperwork burdens, and increasing indemnity payouts from $300,000 to $600,000. The bill would also require the Farm Service Agency to improve data collection at the county level to improve the accuracy of payouts. Additionally, the bill includes an on-ramp to incentivize and assist farmers in moving to a true insurance policy under the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program.

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) led the Connecticut delegation in introducing companion legislation in the House last week.