Gov. requests disaster aid
Gov. requests disaster aidOn Feb. 20, Gov. Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture announced Wyoming livestock producers should take actions to prepare for winter weather. Preparing for storms and caring for livestock is critical across the West.
The 2022-23 winter has been hard for many Wyoming sheep and cattle producers. According to Gordon’s press release, winter started early and has resulted in significant snow levels and considerable drifting, with significant livestock loss across the state. Numbers are expected to rise into this spring.
“We are well aware of the cumulative impacts this winter has brought to our ag producers,” said Gordon. “The state of Wyoming is already at work with partners, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Farm Service Agency (FSA), to determine losses, the period of impact and the geographic scale of impact due to these extraordinary conditions.”
Livestock loss, together with information from producers, will be used to submit a request for a secretarial disaster designation. Producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office as soon as possible so required information can be submitted.
“Wyoming ranchers always have a lot of adversity to overcome, but this winter has been overwhelming as we rarely see so many bad weather variables persist throughout the winter the way they have this year,” said Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) Director Doug Miyamoto.
“Our ranchers have been digging and pushing snow since before Christmas just to maintain contact with livestock, with little or no relief. Prices for feed and diesel are extraordinarily high, and the situation is serious for many in our ag sector,” he continued. “We are committed to working with our partners at the federal level and our producers to try to get some assistance.”
Secretarial disaster designation process
The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to designate counties as disaster areas to make emergency loans available to producers suffering losses in those counties and in counties contiguous to a designated county.
Currently, FSA administers four types of disaster designations: USDA secretarial disaster designation; presidential major disaster and presidential emergency declaration which are done through the Federal Emergency Management Agency; FSA administrator’s physical loss notification and quarantine designation by the secretary under the Plant Protection Act or animal quarantine laws.
A disaster designation specifies the natural disaster which resulted in the designation, the incident period of the disaster and specific counties included in the designation.
The USDA’s secretarial disaster designation process is streamlined to reduce paperwork and documentation requirements at the state FSA level, making the process more efficient and timelier for agriculture producers.
Additionally, the secretarial disaster designation process includes fast-track secretarial disaster designations for severe drought during the growing season and any portion of a county that meets the severe drought (D2) intensity value for eight consecutive weeks or a higher drought intensity value of D3 for any length of time, as reported in the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Furthermore, USDA offers several risk management and disaster assistance options to help producers recover after disasters.
USDA’s secretarial disaster designations must be requested by the Secretary of Agriculture, a governor’s authorized representative, a Tribal Council leader or an FSA state executive director. The secretarial disaster designation is most widely used.
At the current time, FSA and the governor’s office are asking producers to contact their local FSA county office to share how the winter storm has affected them. Producers will need to provide the date of the storm and supporting documentation of expense and/or death loss.
Wyoming FSA State Executive Director Bill Bunce noted, “We have to have those data points so the secretary can make an informed decision.”
Bunce shared this winter has been extremely hard for producers across the West. The state won’t fully know the impact of the most recent storm until afterwards, and many producers won’t know the livestock lost until this spring, after snow drifts have melted.
At this point in time, Bunce anticipated the governor’s request for disaster designation will be statewide, but in the meantime, he is working with his constituents to find any workable solution for Wyoming producers.
“I compliment my partners – the governor’s office and WDA – they’re wonderful people,” shared Bunce. “Wyoming people are tough and we will get through this storm, but it doesn’t make it easy right now. We’ve certainly let our Washington D.C. leadership fully know of the adverse conditions across the state.”
Bunce mentioned livestock producers can receive assistance through several different USDA FSA programs and loans. He encouraged producers to not hesitate to reach out to their local FSA county office for further assistance.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.