Sign-up begins Apr. 15 for livestock programs | TSLN.com

Sign-up begins Apr. 15 for livestock programs

Ranchers are hoping for some blue skies after the drought and blizzard of the last two years that took a heavy toll on the cattle industry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that farmers and ranchers can sign up for disaster assistance programs, reestablished and strengthened by the 2014 Farm Bill, beginning Tuesday, April 15. Quick implementation of the programs has been a top priority for USDA.

"These programs will provide long-awaited disaster relief for many livestock producers who have endured significant financial hardship from weather-related disasters while the programs were expired and awaiting Congressional action," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "President Obama and I prioritized the implementation of these disaster assistance programs now that the Farm Bill has restored and strengthened them."

The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Enrollment also begins on April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP).

LIP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. Eligible livestock includes beef cattle, dairy cattle, bison, poultry, sheep, swine, horses, and other livestock as determined by the Secretary.

LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire on publicly managed land. An eligible livestock producer must own, cash lease, or be a contract grower of eligible livestock during the 60 calendar days before the beginning date of the qualifying drought or fire in a county that is rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as D2, D3, or D4.

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ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have losses due to disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, as determined by the secretary of agriculture.

TAP provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

To expedite applications, all producers who experienced losses are encouraged to collect records documenting these losses in preparation for the enrollment in these disaster assistance programs.

"For livestock producers who lost cattle in the October blizzard, we need third-party verification of the beginning inventory and the losses. Those can be verified by a veterinarian, brand inspector or neighbor," said Craig Schaunaman, state executive director, South Dakota Farm Service Agency. "Good record-keeping will make the process easier for everyone."

People applying for LFP need to be able to provide written leases, or similar documentation.

Schaunaman says that after producers get their completed applications turned in and through the FSA office, they have to be approved by a county committee. "The county committee is made up of producers within that county, who are elected by producers in the county. It's another way of verifying that the applications are accurate," Schaunaman said.

Schaunaman said he anticipates the county committees will meet every two weeks or so, once the process gets started, so the longest producers should have to wait for approval is two weeks. "This is a new application process, so we ask that you be patient and bear with us," he said. The first county committee meetings will probably be in the first part of May.

The payment limit for any producer is $125,000 across all programs, so if a producer qualifies for drought payments and livestock indemnity payments, the payments combined will be limited to $125,000. "There will be some producers who will run up against that cap," Schaunaman said.

"Our technicians will work through the process with producers," Schaunaman said. "Even if you've never been in the office before, never signed up for FSA programs, we can help you out and answer the questions. We obviously can't schedule everyone the first day, but if producers make an appointment and have their records ready, it should go smoothly."

For more information, producers may review the 2014 Farm Bill Fact Sheet, ELAP and TAP fact sheets online, or visit any local FSA office or USDA Service Center.

–U.S. Dept. of Agriculture & TSLN Staff

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