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USDA: Crops damaged by canal collapse covered by insurance

TORRINGTON – After over a month of nothing but bad news concerning the collapse of a tunnel along the Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal, farmers affected by the collapse can breathe a little easier.

The United States Department of Agriculture announced Friday that crop insurance will cover the loss of crops due to the disaster.

The collapse was projected to an impact of nearly $90 million in Wyoming and the Nebraska panhandle.

The decision comes after United States senators and representatives from Wyoming and Nebraska penned a letter on Aug. 22 to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to help put producers hurt by the collapse.

“I appreciate the Department of Agriculture for acting swiftly to provide our producers with crop insurance protection,” Sen. Mike Enzi said. “This is a critical time for many Wyoming producers. This decision will help provide greater certainty to our farmers affected by the tunnel collapse so they can prepare for the winter and the next season.”

Sen. John Barasso, who was in Torrington to see the damage and meet with local officials last week, also praised the decision and vowed to work with Gov. Mark Gordon to rebuild the tunnel.

“I applaud the Department of Agriculture for granting our request to extend crop insurance to affected farmers in Wyoming and Nebraska,” Barrasso said. “This much-needed relief is a lifeline to the Goshen Irrigation District community as they work to repair the damage. I will continue to work with Governor Gordon, the irrigation district and the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure the community has the resources needed to complete the reconstruction process.”

The Wyoming Farm Bureau, along with the Nebraska Farm Bureau, wrote the USDA last week to urge officials to cover the loss. Wyoming Farm Bureau President Todd Fornstrom said through a press release that he is thankful for Perdue and other USDA officials who made the decision possible.

“We are thankful that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced today that federal crop insurance will cover crop losses resulting from the July 17 tunnel collapse that stopped irrigation water to farms for the Goshen Irrigation District in Wyoming and the Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District in Nebraska,” Fornstrom said. “This is great news for many farmers who have invested so much into their crops and now face devastating losses due to loss of irrigation water that is out of their control.”

“Wyoming Farm Bureau was one of the many voices that encouraged USDA to ensure these losses were covered. We want to thank Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, RMA Administrator Barbre and his team and the Wyoming Congressional Delegation along with numerous others who provided important insights to aid RMA in arriving at this decision.”

Nebraska Rep. Adrian Smith also applauded the USDA for taking action in the matter.

“I am grateful USDA has reached the decision to allow crop insurance coverage for producers impacted by the tunnel collapse,” Smith said. “Farmers who rely on this water to grow their crops were put in a bind by a natural disaster. This decision provides producers with a much-needed tool to recoup their losses.”

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