Livestock producers who experienced losses from severe weather events over the past three years should soon see disaster assistance options available under the newly signed farm bill.
Last week Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted that livestock and disaster assistance programs in the farm bill would be one of the first programs rolled out. As part of addressing the historic drought in California, Vilsack said President Barack Obama has asked USDA to make implementation of the programs a top priority and plans to have the programs available in 60 days.
Vilsack said normally it takes 6-8 months to finalize sign-ups after a new farm bill passes, but “by April 15 farmers and producers would be able to make applications for livestock assistance and get checks shortly thereafter.”
The Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) policies and program parameters included in the 2014 farm bill changed very little from those that were authorized in the 2008 farm bill. It took over a year to get the assistance out the door under the last farm bill, but USDA has committed to cut that time by more than 80%.
Vilsack anticipates with the announcement that once filed and distributed, nearly $1 billion will be paid out to producers across the country. California alone could potentially receive up to $100 million for 2014 losses and up to $50 million for previous years.
Producers will be able to sign up for the livestock disaster programs for losses not only for 2014 but for losses they experienced in 2012 and 2013. The 2008 farm bill only provided funding until 2011, but the latest farm bill retroactively allows producers to receive disaster assistance for the remaining years.
Vilsack noted this will provide assistance for livestock producers who suffered after the historic snowstorms in October.
LIP provides benefits to livestock producers by livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather. LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered grazing losses for covered livestock on land that is native or improved pastureland with permanent vegetative cover or is planted specifically for grazing. Vilsack said the program provides help and assistance for producers to get forage and feed from other sources and or help with transportation expenses.
According to the latest Drought Monitor map, as of February 11, 91.6% of California was experiencing severe to exceptional drought. Friday (Feb. 14) Obama will travel to the Fresno, California area where he will visit a farm, participate in a roundtable discussion with farmers and other local stakeholders affected by the drought and witness firstand some of the impacts of the drought on the region’s agriculture.
USDA, Department of the Interior (DOI) and other federal agencies are using their existing authorities and working closely with their state and local partners as the state of California responds to and recovers from this historic drought, the White House said.
USDA announced an additional $15 million in targeted conservation assistance through Environmental Quality Incentives program for drought-stricken states. This includes $5 million in additional assistance to California on top of $20 million in EQIP funds announced the week prior. The Administration said $10 million will be directed towards drought-impacted areas in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico.
Vilsack said the President recognizes that the drought conditions will also create hardships on many families who may be forced out of work. As such, USDA plans to make $60 million available to food banks in the State of California to help families that may be economically impacted by the drought through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).