Newhouse Joins Bipartisan Colleagues to Introduce Bill Reauthorizing WHIP Program for 2020 Wildfires

November 19, 2020
Press Release
Legislation will support growers with crops damaged by smoke taint

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) joined Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) to introduce the 2020 WHIP+ Authorization Act. This bipartisan bill introduced by Members from West Coast states hit hard by wildfires reactivates the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) for 2020 natural disasters, including wildfires. WHIP+ offers critical assistance to agricultural producers, including winegrape growers, whose crops were impacted by smoke taint.

“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,” said Rep. Newhouse. “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.”

“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 Rep. 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.”

Reps. Newhouse and Thompson co-chair the Congressional Wine Caucus, a bipartisan organization of 117 Members from across the United States that advocate for the wine community from grape to glass. In September, wine industry officials sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives outlining the effects of wildfires on the West Coast wine community and urging Congress to reauthorize WHIP+ for 2020.

“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.”

“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.”

 “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 Congressman 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.”

Click here to read the text of the bill.


The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 authorized the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) to help agricultural producers affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019.  WHIP+ covers losses of crops, trees, bushes, and vines that occurred as a result of hurricanes, wildfires, and other qualifying natural disasters. Click here to learn more about WHIP+.

In Washington State, there are more than 1,000 wineries and over 300 winegrape growers. With 16 unique AVAs across the state, Washington’s wine industry continues to grow and produce high-quality varieties that are enjoyed all over the world. In addition, Washington State University is one of the country’s leading viticulture research institutions and one of only 14 universities in the United States to offer a Viticulture & Enology degree.