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Monday, April 14, 2014

Livestock disaster aid sign-up begins

by Traci Eatherton, WLJ Managing Editor

Producers who lost livestock or crops in the 2012 drought or the 2013 blizzards are eligible for some relief with the 2014 farm bill Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) that are now permanent packages and include retroactive payments for eligible losses back to Oct. 1, 2011. There’s probably no need to rush to the front of the line though because the date for cutting the checks has not been set.

What has been set is an April 15 sign-up date for the nearly $1 billion in disaster aid that will be spent, according to the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Despite the unknown time frame, the sign up is well worth it.

“Some payouts may be big,” says Scott Brown, University of Missouri Agricultural Economist.

LFP provides compensation to eligible producers who suffered grazing losses due to drought and fire. LIP provides compensation to livestock producers who suffered livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather and attacks by animals reintroduced into the wild by the federal government or protected by federal law, including wolves and avian predators.

While there are still lots of unanswered questions, USDA is on track to work with producers in most cases. Several states are holding workshops for producers through the local extension or Farm Service Agency (FSA).

“Regulations have not been re leased. While USDA Farm Service Agency prepares rules, farmers can prepare to make their cases,” Brown said “There are few details in the disaster section of the farm bill. Those details must be spelled out before farmers can file claims at their FSA office.”

USDA says livestock farmers can sign a local list at FSA offices to schedule enrollment. In many cases, farmers who have not received federal crop assistance may not be on local office rolls. Signing the list and giving contacts, including email, will speed the process.

“We’re trying to reach producers not normally involved in government programs,” says Brent Carpenter, MU Extension Agricultural Business Specialist, Sedalia.

“They may not be familiar with their local USDA office.”

Those first in line are not likely to deplete available funds, Brown says. “From reading the farm bill, it appears there is no cap on funding.”

Farmers need not rush to their FSA offices to sign up for 2014 crop programs. “I don’t expect to see FSA rules on those until late fall,” Brown says.

“There are many stories, and rumors, out there,” Brown says. “But we can’t give real help until USDA has the detailed regulations.”

According to USDA, these programs cover 75 percent of the value of animals lost with a high aggregate limit of $125,000.

Congressional Budget Office estimates USDA will send out $897 million in disaster payments alone for 2014. The 10-year budget score for disaster programs is projected at $3.67 billion.

In February, following the final leg of the long drawn out farm bill discussions, 24 senators sent a letter asking for speedy relief for producers.

“In 2012, U.S. grazing livestock producers experienced the most devastating loss of pasture, rangeland and forage in decades due to the widespread drought…In October 2013, winter storm Atlas, an unexpected early fall blizzard, killed more than 20,000 cattle, sheep horses and bison in the Dakotas and Nebraska, leaving many livestock producers with less than 50 percent of their livestock herds surviving,” they wrote.

“Our ranchers are still recovering from the Atlas blizzard,” said Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD). “Passing a farm bill that included livestock disaster programs was an important first step, and now that relief needs to reach those affected by the storm as quickly as possible.”

In 2012, U.S. grazing livestock producers faced widespread drought, resulting in more than 80 percent of all U.S. counties deemed “abnormally” to “exceptionally” dry according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. More than 1,400 counties in 33 states were designated for disaster relief by USDA.

The senators’ letter voiced concerns over history repeating itself.

“The 2008 Farm Bill Disaster Title authorized and funded the LFP, LIP and other disaster programs, for which USDA published regulations, developed policy and software, and implemented. These programs and their funding authorization expired September 30, 2011,” they wrote.

“Final passage of the 2008 Farm Bill occurred on June 18, 2008. LIP signup began July 13, 2009, which was one year and 25 days after final passage of the 2008 Farm Bill. LFP signup began September 14, 2009, which was one year, two months and 27 days after final passage of the 2008 Farm Bill.”

So while the signup has begun, the final details and pay schedule are still unknown. “Let me start first with the opportunity to ensure you that payments due will be paid,” Vilsack said, preceding a discussion on the timeline of the farm bill implementation, at the Commodity Classic in February.

There is one area that doesn’t appear to be covered and that is the recent outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) that has killed at least 5 million U.S. pigs.

“Our disaster assistance programs really are not specifically geared for this type of circumstance,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, last week.

“The Livestock Indemnity Program is really designed when Mother Nature causes a problem. The Livestock Forage Program is designed when there just simply isn’t enough forage. The ELAP Program is really focused on sort of the niche area of trees and honeybees and there’s only $20 million in that account and if you were to suggest that that’s a source of compensation, it would have to be 10 times that size to deal with the losses that occurred,” said Vilsack.

Producers who experienced losses are encouraged to collect records documenting these losses in preparation for the enrollment in these disaster assistance programs. Producers also are encouraged to contact their county office ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

Recommended documents include:

• Documentation of the number and kind of livestock that have died, supplemented if possible by photographs or video records of ownership and losses. • Dates of death supported by birth recordings or purchase receipts.

• Costs of transporting livestock to safer grounds or to move animals to new pastures.

• Feed purchases if supplies or grazing pastures are destroyed.

• Crop records, including seed and fertilizer purchases, planting and production records.

• Pictures of on-farm storage facilities that were destroyed by wind or flood waters.

• Evidence of damaged farm land.

Enrollment also begins on April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) in 2011, when the programs expired, through 2014.

ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have losses due to disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, such as wildfires. TAP provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor

 
 


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