January 11, 2021

Lee, Thompson, Panetta, DeFazio, and Newhouse Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Authorize WHIP Program to Provide Relief for 2020 Fires

Washington, D.C. - Today Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13), along with original co-authors Representatives Mike Thompson (CA-05) Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Dan Newhouse (WA-04), announced the introduction of the WHIP+ Reauthorization Act. These Members represent states up and down the West Coast that were hit hard by fires in 2020 and they introduce this bill to reactivate the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) for all 2020 natural disasters. The program is a critical lifeline for agricultural producers whose crops were damaged by smoke taint. 

“This was the worst wildfire season in California history. Fires burned millions of acres across California this year, putting lives at risk and causing severe hardship on top of the pandemic and economic crisis we are already experiencing,” said Lee. “California is the largest agricultural state in the nation, and the 2021 WHIP+ Reauthorization Act will help California farmers recover from this disaster and provide the relief they urgently need to support their businesses and continue supplying food across our country."

“Our district and our state faced the worst fire season on record last year and I continue to work to ensure we use every tool at our disposal to rebuild. Our small family farmers are at risk of losing everything because their crops were ruined by smoke taint. That’s why I introduced the WHIP+ Reauthorization Act, so we can reauthorize this important program for growers up and down the coast,” said Thompson, whose district was hit by both the LNU Lightning Complex and Glass Fires in 2020. “This bill ensures the WHIP+ program is open so some of our agricultural producers, including our wine community, will have the help they need to recover and stay afloat. I will continue working to get this bill passed and bring back every Federal dollar and resource as our community rebuilds.”

“Last year, record-breaking wildfires wreaked havoc on 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 are eligible for this crucial assistance.”

“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 be an original co-sponsor of the WHIP+ bill to ensure these producers get the funding they need to rebuild and repair.” 

“Winegrape growers in Central Washington are all too familiar with the damage that wildfires and smoke can have on the industry each year,” said Newhouse.“WHIP+ is a necessary resource for many producers as they continue to recover from last year’s devastating wildfires in our region. I am pleased to reintroduce this legislation and encourage my colleagues to support this important program that will provide much-needed assistance to Central Washington’s high-quality wine industry for years to come.”

To learn more about the WHIP+ program, click here and to download the full text of the WHIP+ Reauthorization Act, click here. This bill was first introduced in November 2020.