Closing gaps in drought relief: Senators request greater drought assistance for producers
As a second year of La Niña conditions are projected for early 2022, producers across the West continue to battle complications from drought, including reduced forage production and herd liquidation. A group of senators joined forces to request greater support and assistance for agriculturists.
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), a major ag industry supporter, led a bipartisan group of senators in requesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) to address gaps in coverage which exist under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).
While many producers transport feed to livestock, and are provided assistance for the cost of feed transportation, others choose to transport livestock to feed sources. However, USDA announced in September ELAP assistance was not available to producers who are transporting their livestock to feed.
“We continue to hear from producers who have been severely affected by drought this year and have incurred costs related to transporting their livestock to feed sources instead of hauling feed to their livestock,” the senators wrote in their letter to FSA.
“Under current regulations, these producers are not eligible for ELAP transportation assistance,” the senators continue. “We respectfully request FSA exercise its authority to further improve ELAP by providing payments to producers for a portion of the costs they have incurred from transporting their livestock to feed sources.”
A letter supported by producer-based organizations explains many producers live in areas where it is more economically efficient to haul livestock to feed and opens additional options for feedstuffs.
“At a time when finding forage is a challenge, the ability to look at feed that is not available to haul – like beet tops or corn stalks – is significant,” the letter signed by the American Sheep Industry Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau and Public Lands Council reads. “Additionally, this reduces the number of loads needed, thus reducing the cost to the producer and the need to find more livestock haulers, which is critical in light of the pandemic-related supply chain shortages we are facing.”
Under current ELAP rules, producers can utilize a 60 percent cost-share to haul additional feed at a rate topping out at $6.60 per mile for up to 1,000 miles. This cost-share percentage is higher for socially disadvantaged livestock producers.
The livestock organizations note, “We believe the same parameters would be sufficient for hauling livestock to feed. Therefore, we respectfully request USDA FSA make additional flexibility available to cost-share hauling livestock to feed under the same guidelines currently in place for hauling feed to livestock to address this gap in coverage under ELAP.”
“ELAP plays a critical role in assisting producers who face losses due to adverse weather events, like the severe drought across the country this year,” the senators continue. “We appreciate USDA’s recent efforts to improve ELAP coverage by reimbursing producers for a portion of their feed transportation costs and by lowering the threshold for assistance for water transportation costs. It is critically important that USDA disaster programs appropriately respond to the challenges farmers and ranchers face during difficult times.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), John Hoeven (R-ND), Amy Klobuchar (R-KS), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Tina Smith (D-MN), as well as Thune and Tester.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.