Heitkamp to Senate: our ranchers are collateral damage from shutdown, lack of farm bill | TSLN.com

Heitkamp to Senate: our ranchers are collateral damage from shutdown, lack of farm bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) today, offered resources for ranchers, many of whom lost up to 50 percent of their cattle herds during the severe snow storm in southwestern North Dakota and South Dakota last weekend.

Heitkamp also spoke on the Senate floor about the lack of critical federal assistance for ranchers in the aftermath of this devastating storm because of the government shutdown – including the lack of resources that are usually available to help them cope with natural disasters. She also spoke about how the shutdown and the absence of a Farm Bill are hurting farmers and the agriculture industry – key pieces of North Dakota's economy.

"Since last weekend, I've heard from ranchers throughout southwestern North Dakota whose cattle herds have been destroyed by the storm. The stories are just devastating," said Heitkamp. "This early storm has cost many of our ranchers so much, and because of the government shutdown and the lack of a Farm Bill, they aren't able to report their losses, make disaster claims, or get needed assistance.

"These ranchers are just more collateral damage from the government shutdown and the expiration of the Farm Bill. Because we're debating whether to fund the federal government or not, Congress isn't able to work to pass a Farm Bill and focus on many other pressing issues. It's time for Congress to stop its political bickering and do the right thing – for our ranchers, farmers, and many others who are suffering because of Congress' inaction."

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is one of the many federal agencies and departments shuttered because of the government shutdown, which is preventing ranchers from reporting the number of cattle lost. It also means they don't have any one to consult with at the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the information they need to collect to eventually report claims.

Additionally, since Congress hasn't passed a new Farm Bill, the livestock program that helps ranchers withstand losses to livestock herds due to extreme weather events – the Livestock Indemnity Program – has expired. And the Emergency Assistance for Livestock and Honeybee Producers Program – which helps producers stay in business after they experience significant losses because of natural disasters – is not available to the ranchers and beekeepers hit hardest by the storm. Until Congress passes a Farm Bill, livestock producers in danger of losing their businesses will not be eligible for support.

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RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO RANCHERS WHO LOST CATTLE:

Loss Reporting

With the expiration of the Farm Bill, the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) are currently unavailable for growers. However, once Congress passes the Farm Bill, ranchers will likely have the opportunity to report losses and apply for assistance from the programs. In order for ranchers to qualify for federal disaster assistance after the passage of the Farm Bill, it is important that losses are clearly documented. To clearly document losses, ranchers should:

1. Take a time stamped photo of the cattle losses that occurred as a result of the storm.

2. Provide a detailed account of inventory prior to the storm and losses as a result of the storm.

3. Provide third party verification of the losses that occurred. Third party verifiers must be a person familiar with a rancher's operations that do not have a financial interest in the ranching operation. Examples of third party verifiers include veterinarians, livestock nutritionists, or brand inspectors.

For additional information, ranchers may contact the following organizations:

· North Dakota Board of Animal Health – 701-328-2655

· North Dakota Agricultural Extension Link to Extension Directory

· Independent Beef Association of North Dakota – 701-663-3805

· North Dakota Stockmen's Association – 701-223-2522

· North Dakota Farmers Union – 800-366-8331

· North Dakota Farm Bureau – 800-932-8869

Animal Disposal

Ranchers experiencing losses must dispose of animals within a 36 hour window of animal death. North Dakota State Law requires that animals be disposed by one of the following methods:

1. Burial under four feet of soil;

2. Burning of animal carcasses;

3. Composting of animal carcasses;

4. Delivery to an approved animal dump site; or

5. Use of an alternative disposal plan approved by the North Dakota State Veterinarian. In the past blizzard events, the North Dakota State Veterinarian has approved disposal plans that allow for temporary storage of dead animals. If options 1 – 4 are not available to a rancher, the rancher should consult with the North Dakota Board of Animal Health at 701-328-2655.

For additional information, ranchers should view the guidance provided by the North Dakota Department of Health Emergency Waste Disposal Variance Notification: Dead or Diseased Livestock. For ranchers disposing of large numbers of animals in a disposal pit, other than a permitted landfill, the North Dakota Department of Health recommends ranchers complete the Department's "Emergency Waste Disposal Variance Notification" form Emergency Waste Disposal Variance Notification. View Animal Disposal Landfills for a list of landfills that may accept large dead animals for disposal. The North Dakota Department of Health recommends contacting the landfill to make arrangements prior to delivery.

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