Farm Bill disaster programs for livestock to be retroactively implemented
With the passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, producers across the country have concerns about where and how the new programs will be implemented.
“Both the livestock disaster and diary programs have gone through substantial changes in recent years,” said Eric Belasco, an assistant professor in agricultural economics and economics at Montana State University. “The Livestock Forage Disaster Program went through substantial changes in 2008, and the program has shifted again in the current Farm Bill.”
Belasco notes that three livestock disaster programs are available in the Farm Bill.
“In the 2008 Farm Bill, there were five disaster programs – three of which were most relevant to livestock producers,” he commented. “The Livestock Forage Program (LFP), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) are most relevant to most ranchers.”
“Each program indicates a shift in Farm Bill policy toward a disaster-related safety net for ranchers,” Belasco said.
Additionally, the programs are sponsored through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), who will be responsible for administering all aspects of disaster assistance.
The Agriculture Act of 2014 is also retroactive for losses since the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill on Sept. 31, 2011.
“They made slight changes and adjustments to these programs, but they are funding programs to 2011,” he said.
Wyoming FSA State Executive Director Gregor Goertz comments, “Preliminary information indicates producers in every county in Wyoming except Teton are eligible for payments in both the 2012 and 2013 grazing years.”
The new legislation also makes livestock disaster programs permanent to avoid a lapse in coverage in the future.
“If the bill expires, the programs will continue, and we won’t run into the same issue later,” Belasco said. “There are questions right now about what happens when there isn’t a policy in place.”
Additionally, available assistance increased from $100,000 per person to $125,000 per person.
“This hasn’t been a binding limit frequently, but for producers in areas experiencing above-average drought, the binding limits may be approached,” he continued.
The LFP provides compensation to those producers who suffer grazing losses due to qualifying drought on federal and private land or fire on federally-managed lands, Belasco explains.
“For LFP, producers know if they qualify for payments based on the drought monitor,” he says. “There is also no risk management purchase requirement.”
Payments may be distributed to producers for up to five months of lost feed each year.
Payment rates will be established in the near future based on the national average price of cornin the year of the loss.
For fire, payments will cover 50 percent of monthly feed costs for the number of days the producer is prohibited from grazing, up to 180 days.
Belasco also clarified that the number of months a producer is eligible will likely be dependent on the severity and length of drought.
“The payment rates are based on monthly feed costs for covered livestock or the normal carrying capacity on eligible land,” Belasco said.
Payment for fire-damaged forage is also available for federally-managed lands at the rate of 50 percent of the monthly feed costs for the number of days the producer was prohibited from utilizing their grazing leases. The payments may cover up to 180 days.
LIP is the program created in the Farm Bill to cover livestock losses.
“This will be the program that people who lost livestock in Winter Storm Atlas can utilize,” says Belasco. “LIP covers death losses in excess of normal mortality.”
Normal mortality rates are published by FSA, and these losses could include those livestock deaths resulting from adverse weather conditions, wolves or avian predators.
“Payments will remain at 75 percent of the market value for applicable livestock on the day before the date of death,” Belasco explains.
Producers, however, must be cognizant of the fact that they must be able to document livestock losses properly.
He continues, “A big issues with this program will be documenting those death losses from past years. Producers should notify their FSA office to make sure their documentation is considered acceptable.”
Examples of death documentation may include photographs or videos of deceased animals.
The final program ELAP, which will provide relief to eligible livestock producers that does not fit under either the LIP and LFP programs.
Disease losses are also covered under the ELAP program.
“Other eligible losses under ELAP include honey bee producers losses from colony collapse disorder or costs incurred for purchases of feed or lost feed due to flooding, which is not covered in LIP or LFP,” says Belasco.
Grazing losses that result from pests, such as grasshoppers, or losses from fire on private lands may also be covered by ELAP.
Goertz emphasized that while many people have read and interpreted the Farm Bill, the agencies are still working on the rules and regulations for the legislation.
“We won’t know exactly what these programs look like until we see the rules and regulations,” he said. “We may see changes.”
Goertz announced that most of the Wyoming FSA staff will attend training on these programs April 10 and encouraged producers to contact their local FSA offices after April 11 with any questions. Until that point, however, they will not have more information.
Belasco adds, “Secretary Vilsack predicts over $1 billion will be going to producers nationwide for retroactive claims.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also noted that he wants expired livestock disaster programs implemented within 60 days after the recent Farm Bill was signed – by April 15, 2014.
Wyoming FSA will release additional information as it becomes available and encourages producers to be looking out for more details on sign-up.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.