Texas farmers, ranchers, and landowners who have incurred damage from recent adverse weather should gather all pertinent records and contact their local Farm Service Agency office as soon as possible.
May has been an odd month, says Texas State FSA Director Judith Canales. “We’ve gone from one weather disaster extreme to the other,” she says. In early 2015, 99 Texas counties had hit drought relief triggers.
In early May, drought conditions still triggered payments for the livestock indemnity program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster program (LFP); by late May and early June, those programs and others were available to assist farmers, ranchers and landowners with damages from flood, hail, lightning and tornado. See also: http://1.usa.gov/1RHHBBW
“Fortunately, we have a farm bill that provides the proper tools for disaster assistance,” Canales says. “Farm bill programs will help producers recover and rebuild. FSA has many programs available.”
Stay in touch
She says it is important that producers stay in touch with FSA offices. “Tell us what’s going on in the county. Local assessment is important, because conditions vary across the state. Some big counties may also have different conditions in different parts of the county.”
Proper documentation will be critical to support damage claims. “Producers should provide all pertinent records, including photos of damage, receipts for transportation of livestock, feed costs, and other expenses. Document death losses, including when the loss occurred.”
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Canales says USDA has initiated HayNet, an Internet-based Hay and Grazing Net Ad Service that allows farmers and ranchers to share “Need Hay” ads and “Have Hay” ads online. Farmers also can use another feature to post advertisements for grazing land, specifically ads announcing the availability of grazing land or ads requesting a need for land to graze. Go to www.fsa.usda.gov/haynet
FSA offers several disaster assistance and low-interest loan programs to assist agricultural producers in recovery efforts following floods or similar qualifying natural disasters. Canales says timing is crucial as most applications must be submitted soon after an eligible disaster strikes.
Programs that are available, and loans, include:
Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters (includes native grass for grazing). Eligible producers must have purchased NAP coverage for 2015 crops.
Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), offers payments to eligible producers for livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. Eligible losses may include those determined by FSA to have been caused by hurricanes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, tropical storms, tornados, lightening, extreme heat, and extreme cold. Producers must provide verifiable documentation of death losses resulting from eligible adverse weather events and must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss of livestock is apparent.
Tree Assistance Program (TAP), provides assistance to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers for qualifying tree, shrub and vine losses due to natural disaster.
Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), provides emergency relief for losses due to feed or water shortages, disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, not adequately addressed by other disaster programs. ELAP covers physically damaged or destroyed livestock feed that was purchased or mechanically harvested forage or feedstuffs intended for use as feed for the producer's eligible livestock. In order to be considered eligible, harvested forage must be baled; forage that is only cut, raked or windrowed is not eligible.
Producers must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss is apparent. ELAP also covers up to 150 lost grazing days in instances when a producer has been forced to remove livestock from a grazing pasture due to floodwaters.
For beekeepers, ELAP covers beehive losses (the physical structure) in instances where the hive has been destroyed by a natural disaster including flooding, high winds and tornadoes.
Emergency Loan Program, available to producers with agriculture operations located in a county under a primary or contiguous Secretarial Disaster designation. These low interest loans help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding.
Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), provides emergency funding for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate land severely damaged by natural disasters; includes fence loss.
Canales says farmers who were prevented from planting a 2015 spring-seeded crop also face application time constraints. In order to establish or retain FSA program eligibility, farmers and ranchers must report prevented planting and failed acres (crops and grasses).
Prevented planting acreage must be reported on form FSA-576, Notice of Loss, no later than 15 calendar days after the final planting date established by FSA and Risk Management Agency (RMA).
Most of the state qualifies under at least one, often multiple categories for disaster assistance, Canales says.
“We’ve also activated the State Emergency Board (which Canales chairs),” she says. “We work with FEMA to get agricultural help where it’s needed. We are not first responders — that’s FEMA’s responsibility — but we work with agriculture. We are cooperating with the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Extension Service. We communicate and support one another.”
In addition to responding to these new and ongoing disasters, Texas FSA continues to work the farm bill, with ARC and PLC enrollment pending this summer. “No announcement has been made so far,” Canales says. “We also are working through LIP claims; we have 42,000 already in, and are working through another 3,000 on the register.
President Obama has declared three South Texas Counties — Harris, Hays and Van Zandt — as disaster areas. Other declarations could follow.
Canales says disaster declarations are not necessary to provide producers with the help they need to rebuild and recover from both the long drought and the recent rainfall events that spawned tornados and flooding and also resulted in crop losses from wind, hail, and prevented planting from too much moisture.
“We are fortunate to have a farm bill in place,” she says. “One month saw the weather pendulum swing from one extreme to another. We are using the programs available as we need them.”