USDA to expedite livestock disaster assistance program

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2014 - USDA will expedite implementation of its livestock disaster assistance program, the Obama administration announced today. The $100 million program, part of the just-passed 2014 Farm Bill, will begin accepting applications on April 14.

USDA took more than a year to implement the Livestock Forage Disaster Program after the last reauthorization of the farm bill in 2008. The program and its funding expired in October 2011, meaning producers haven't received payments for their losses in over two years.

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The program will allow livestock producers to retroactively receive indemnities for losses sustained in 2012 and 2013. USDA's Farm Services Agency (FSA) will disburse payments to producers on a rolling basis, until the backlog of claims is processed.

The administration announced the plan to speed up the process today while touting other initiatives to grant some relief for agricultural producers in California suffering through a historic drought. But its implications will be felt well beyond California, as livestock managers in the Dakotas - especially those hard hit by last October's devastating winter storm - welcomed the news of the forthcoming payments.

 “This is good news for the livestock producers who suffered back to back grazing and livestock death losses in 2012 and 2013,” said Sen. John Thune. Just last week, the South Dakota Republican wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to ask the administration to make the relief program in the Farm Bill “a top priority.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., also praised USDA's decision.

 “By cutting through some red tape, we were able to expedite this support, so our ranchers have access to the disaster relief we fought so hard to include in the Farm Bill,” said Heitkamp, who is a also a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“Eligible ranchers should reach out to their local Farm Service Agency office as soon as possible to sign up for relief,” she said.

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