Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is opening disaster aid to farmers and ranchers who suffered significant losses during historic and prolonged winter storms in Eastern Oregon.

“I know our Eastern Oregon communities are struggling. I also know that neighbors are standing together through this challenging time — a true expression of our Oregonian spirit and values,” Merkley said. “I’m standing alongside them, and will continue to work to get the federal support our communities need.”

“I am pleased that farmers and ranchers in Malheur County and Eastern Oregon will get the federal help needed to begin their recovery and rebuilding from the winter snowstorms that have devastated their communities and businesses,” Wyden said. “The painful and poignant stories of losses from roof collapses and other calamities place a premium on providing this assistance as soon as possible.”

The senators in January asked Michael Young, Acting Secretary of the USDA, to provide desperately needed relief to Malheur County and other Eastern Oregon counties. 

In their letter, Merkley and Wyden noted that Eastern Oregon communities have already suffered the collapse of roofs on onion packing facilities, hay barns and small businesses due to heavy snowfalls, and that the full tally of the losses was still being compiled. With dozens of crop storage sheds and packing lines damaged and 150 million pounds of onions lost, onion growers in particular experienced devastating losses. 

The USDA in turn awarded a Farm Service Agency Administrator’s Physical Loss Notification, which automatically triggers the availability of funds for physical losses.

Access to low-interest emergency loans will allow farmers and ranchers to repair or replace damaged or destroyed physical property essential to the success of their operations, including stored crops and livestock losses.