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What’s At Stake With The Disaster Relief Bill?

With dozens of bills passing through Congress every month, it can be hard to keep track of the current state of land laws. One bill that has been particularly hard to follow has been the Disaster Relief Bill. This bill has been debated about and changed for months. As hurricane season approaches, it’s important to know the impacts that the disaster relief bill could have on the land industry.

To understand why the disaster bill is important requires an understanding of the massive impact that natural disasters have had on the land industry in recent years. A series of natural disasters in 2017 destroyed countless crops, livestock, land, and lives. According to a study from Texas A&M, 27% of the state’s cattle population were affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Then, 2018 wasn’t any easier – The estimated agricultural losses from 2018 are estimated to be $5.5 billion for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina and over $3 billion for Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. We’re only halfway through 2019, but have already faced widespread flooding, wildfires, and more.

The most recent draft of the bill (which you can read in full here) is still being debated over issues such as disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico and money for emergency boarder security. If the most recent draft is signed into law by President Trump, here is how it will impact the land industry.

Crops and Livestock

With farm debt and bankruptcy on the rise in many areas, the damage on crops from natural disasters has taken a huge toll on farmers. The cold snap in mid-March of 2017 froze thousands of crops and caused $1 billion in agricultural losses. The impacts of these natural disasters last beyond a single crop. Floods can deplete the soil of its natural nutrients, which can take a long time to recover.

The impact of natural disasters on livestock has also put a strain on the rancher’s wallet. Not only is the financial impact of having livestock die bad for the farmer’s bottom line, if the dead animals are not removed in a properly and timely manner, it could impact water quality, the other living livestock, or other natural resources.

The disaster relief bill is expected to provide $3 billion to help recover losses of crops, trees, and vines that were impacted by natural disasters. This will help ease the financial loss for farmers. The grants will also help farmers pay for livestock losses and future crop insurance.

Forests

Wildfires claimed countless trees, properties, and lives in the past few years. Part of the Disaster Relief Bill sets aside money that will go towards forest restoration, hazardous fuel management, and other expenses related to protecting trees from natural disasters; including $720 million for urgent wildfire suppression and $480 million for an Emergency Forest Restoration Program.

Clean Up and Prevention

Preventing and cleaning up the impacts of natural disasters can be extremely costly. Large sections of the most recent draft of the bill include funds for marine debris removal, improving hurricane and flood intensity forecasting, restoring and rebuilding national wildlife refuges, helping rebuild national parks, fixing local roads, and more.

While this bill has been mulled over for months, there may be good news on the horizon. The House recently passed a multibillion-dollar disaster aid package on Friday, May 10th, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill before a weeklong Memorial Day Recess. This means it is one step closer to getting the final approval from President Trump. Be sure to reach out to your elected officials to make sure they know how important disaster relief is to the land industry, especially private property owners.

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About the Author: Laura Barker is a freelance writer based out of California for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has been with RLI since October 2017.