Since 2011 many Southwestern and Western livestock producers have suffered significant set backs and losses as a result of ongoing drought conditions.
Cyclic weather patterns, like recurring climate change, have been named as the most likely culprit for the current dry trend across much of North America and in other parts of the world. But regardless the cause or reason, livestock producers have been sadly burdened with the results— withering forage crops and dwindling livestock inventories in direct response to climate-related loss and destruction.
While some disaster assistance programs have been available for farmers, livestock producers who have been forced to cull herds significantly over the last three years have been particularly hard hit and were faced with fewer program opportunities for recovery. Also suffering from climate calamity with few options for assistance are honeybee and tree nursery operations and operators of fish farms.
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The desperate need for disaster assistance and drought relief that goes beyond what is normal or expected in a given season, spurred USDA officials and members of the Senate and House agriculture committees to establish additional levels of emergency support for these producers in the new farm program, adopted in February.
Four months into the new year and with the threat of additional dry weather for the summer months looming, USDA has announced the extra disaster assistance included in the new farm legislation is now ready to roll out.
USDA announced early this week that farmers and ranchers can sign up for disaster assistance programs that have been reestablished and strengthened by the Agriculture Act of 2014, beginning Tuesday, April 15.
During a press conference April 7, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said quick implementation of the programs has become a top priority for USDA.
"These programs will provide long-awaited disaster relief for many livestock producers who have endured significant financial hardship from weather-related disasters while the programs were expired and awaiting Congressional action," Vilsack told reporters. "President Obama and I prioritized the implementation of these disaster assistance programs now that the Farm Bill has restored and strengthened them."
The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.
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).
The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. Eligible livestock includes beef cattle, dairy cattle, bison, poultry, sheep, swine, horses, and other livestock as determined by the Secretary.
The Livestock Forage Program provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire on publicly managed land. An eligible livestock producer must own, cash lease, or be a contract grower of eligible livestock during the 60 calendar days before the beginning date of the qualifying drought or fire in a county that is rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as D2, D3, or D4.
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 blizzards and wildfires, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.
- TAP provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees have been charged over the last two months to ensure eligible farmers and ranchers would be able to enroll to receive disaster relief on April 15.
To expedite applications, all producers who experienced losses are encouraged to collect records documenting these losses in preparation for the enrollment in these disaster assistance programs. Information on the types of records necessary can be provided by local FSA county offices. Producers also are encouraged to contact their county office ahead of time to schedule an appointment.
For more information, producers planning on sign-up for LID, LFP, ELAP and TAP programs should contact their regional FSA office.