The Agriculture Department is increasing the amount of assistance available to drought-stricken cattle producers by adding coverage for feed transportation costs to the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program.


The ELAP program — which compensates livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers for losses from disease, weather events and other adversarial conditions — already covers the cost of hauling water during drought. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Thursday that because of the expansive drought, producers are having to transport feed long distances.


The assistance will cover up to 60% of the feed transportation costs that exceed what eligible producers would normally incur. For socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning or military veteran producers, the reimbursement rate could be as high as 90%.


“The goal here is to focus on those areas that have been designated serious drought areas — D2 for eight consecutive weeks or D3 or greater,” Vilsack said. “The hope is that by providing this resource, we'll be able to make it easier for farmers to stay in business, and therefore not basically create more disruption in the market.”


According to a press release, an eligible producer must have incurred feed transportation costs on or after Jan. 1, 2021. The reimbursement costs for regions will be determined by a national cost formula created by the USDA. 

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This year, the initial cost formula is $6.60 per mile, but that may be adjusted regionally. 


North Dakota Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven of North Dakota welcomed the change, which will benefit their drought-stricken state. Hoeven said that he had previously encouraged Vilsack and Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux to expand ELAP coverage to include feed transportation costs. 


“This is much needed assistance and is an important tool in helping our producers weather this drought," Hoeven said.


According to the USDA release, cost share assistance will also be made available for treating hay or feed to prevent the spread of invasive pests like fire ants.

Producers applying for payments for 2021 must do so by Jan. 31, 2022.


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