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DeFazio, Thompson, Panetta, Lee and Newhouse Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reauthorize Whip Program for 2020 Wildfires, Support Growers with Crops Damaged by Smoke Taint

Nov 19, 2020
Press Release

Today Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04), along with original co-authors Mike Thompson (CA-05), Representatives Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Dan Newhouse (WA-04), announced the introduction of the 2020 WHIP+ Reauthorization Act.

This bipartisan bill reactivates the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) for 2020 natural disasters, including wildfires. The WHIP program offers critical assistance to agricultural producers, including grape growers, whose crops were impacted by smoke taint.

“Oregon agriculture, including our world-renowned wine grape growers, produce some of best crops in the nation,” said DeFazio. “Tragically, many of these businesses experienced significant damage during September’s wildfires, costing millions of dollars in losses. I’m proud to co-sponsor the WHIP+ bill to ensure these producers get the funding they need to rebuild and repair.”

“Our district has again been hit hard by historically damaging wildfires this fire season. As we work to recover, we must support the small family farmers who are at risk of losing everything because their crops were damaged by smoke from the fires,” said Thompson. “That’s why I am proud to introduce the 2020 WHIP+ Reauthorization Act. This bipartisan bill activates the WHIP+ program for these 2020 fires and helps these growers hit hard by disasters. It will be a vital support system for producers, both in our district and up and down the West Coast, including our vibrant wine community. Know that I will continue working to ensure this bill is passed as soon as possible and to bring back every Federal dollar and resource to help our community rebuild.”

 “This year, record-breaking wildfires wreaked havoc on many of our communities on the Central Coast of California.  In addition to the structural damage, large swaths of our agriculture, including wine grapes, were tainted due to smoke exposure,” said Panetta.  “WHIP+ historically has been a lifeline to producers who suffered this type of disaster.  As it stands, unfortunately, the program does not cover 2020 losses.  Our legislation, the 2020 WHIP+ Reauthorization Act, will ensure that wine grape growers, who suffered severe losses during this unprecedented wildfire year, are eligible for these crucial payments.”

“This was the worst wildfire season we have ever seen in California. Fires burned more than 4 million acres across the state, causing so much hardship on top of the COVID crisis and the economic collapse that we were already experiencing,” Lee said. “The damage to California farms from fire and smoke has been incalculable. We are the largest agricultural state in the nation, and the 2020 WHIP+ Reauthorization Act will help make sure that California farmers can access funds they need to stay in business and continue to feed the country.”

“Wildfires and smoke taint pose a great threat to Washington state’s distinguished wine industry, a community that is already facing billions of dollars in losses. WHIP+ will help our winegrape growers recover from the damages of this year’s catastrophic wildfires that ravaged the West, and it will ensure they can continue producing the high-quality Washington wines we are so proud of,” said Newhouse.

You can click here to read the text of the 2020 WHIP+ Reauthorization Act. You can also click here to learn more about the WHIP+ program.