Livestock Disaster Aid Prioritized

DC Dialogue

USDA expects to pay out $1 billion in disaster assistance under new farm bill programs to be rolled out by mid-April.

Published on: February 14, 2014

Livestock producers who experienced losses from severe weather events over the past three years should soon see disaster assistance options available under the newly signed farm bill.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said during the last several months his agency has been convening groups and prioritizing programs that should be rolled out first once the farm bill was passed.

Last week Vilsack noted that livestock and disaster assistance programs in the farm bill would be one of the first programs rolled out. As part of addressing the historic drought in California, Vilsack said President Barack Obama has asked USDA to make implementation of the programs a top priority and plans to have the programs available in 60 days.

Vilsack said normally it takes 6-8 months to finalize sign-ups after a new farm bill passes, but “by April 15 farmers and producers would be able to make applications for livestock assistance and get checks shortly thereafter.”

The newly passed bill reauthorizes the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP).  These programs will be retroactive for 2012 and 2013 and will extend through the life of the farm bill.  Additionally, the legislation raises the benefit cap to $125,000 for a single producer and $250,000 for a married couple.

The LFP and LIP policies and program parameters included in the 2014 farm bill changed very little from those that were authorized in the 2008 farm bill. It took over a year to get the assistance out the door under the last farm bill, but USDA has committed to cut that time by more than 80%.

Vilsack anticipates with the announcement that once filed and distributed, nearly $1 billion will be paid out to producers across the country. California alone could potentially receive up to $100 million for 2014 losses and up to $50 million for previous years.

Producers will be able to sign up for the livestock disaster programs for losses not only for 2014 but for losses they experienced in 2012 and 2013. The 2008 farm bill only provided funding until 2011, but the latest farm bill retroactively allows producers to receive disaster assistance for the remaining years.

Vilsack noted this will provide assistance for livestock producers who suffered after the historic snowstorms in October.

LIP provides benefits to livestock producers by livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather. LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered grazing losses for covered livestock on land that is native or improved pastureland with permanent vegetative cover or is planted specifically for grazing. Vilsack said the program provides help and assistance for producers to get forage and feed from other sources and or help with transportation expenses.

Members of Congress had called on Vilsack to expedite implementation of the livestock disaster programs.

Because LFP uses the U.S. Drought Monitor to determine county eligibility and whether payments will be made for one, two, or the maximum of three months, this eligibility information should already be determined by USDA for 2012 and 2013 losses, the senators added.