Ellingson: Stockmen working on help for ND
North Dakota Stockmen’s Association
It’s been said “when it rains, it pours,” and I cannot think of a more appropriate analogy for what North Dakota farm and ranch families have been through this year. 2019 has certainly delivered a downpour of challenges – weak cattle and crop prices, prolonged trade disputes and erratic and volatile weather systems that have drowned out many areas and, early on, nearly droughted out others. Last month’s historic blizzard, which dumped well over two feet of snow in parts of the state and followed off-the-charts September precipitation, complicated an already difficult year.
I don’t need to tell you that, across North Dakota, farmers and ranchers are struggling to get crops harvested, corn chopped, hay hauled, calves weaned and cattle moved, and Mother Nature hasn’t cut us a break to do much of any of it. I know the worry, the stress, the frustration, the stir-craziness and the exhaustion so many are experiencing right now as the soggy conditions persist and it gets later and later in the calendar. I also know what our agricultural community needs now more than anything is sunshine and an extended fall, and I continue to pray for those things. In the meantime, the NDSA is doing what it can to help, working daily with state and federal decision-makers to secure some assistance, provide on-the-ground information about the serious conditions in farm and ranch country and share information and resources with you.
Here are a few of the things we have in the works:
• A Secretarial Disaster Declaration is being sought, and it is expected to take a few weeks to get approval. If it is granted, this will open the door for individual producers to access some low-interest federal loans and some other federal assistance programs, including the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Plus Program (WHIP+) program.
• Discussion about reinstating the state’s Emergency Hay Transportation Assistance Program, or a similar one, has begun. Producers may remember the Emergency Hay Transportation Program from when it was last used during the drought of 2017. It provided reimbursement to eligible producers for a portion of their emergency hay transportation expenses.
• A Presidential Disaster Declaration is also being sought. State and county emergency officials are assessing damages and determining how to proceed right now. This type of declaration is focused more on municipality support and, if approved, may be able to help support counties and townships, for example, repair damaged roads and infrastructure.
• At the direction of the Industrial Commission, the Bank of North Dakota is looking into some low-interest loans that producers could take out immediately and use as a bridge until they are able to pay it back once their calves or commodities are sold or they receive federal damage payments.
• An additional federal disaster bill is likewise being discussed for introduction at the end of the year.
A few programs that are up and running right now may have application for your situation. The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) provides assistance for weather-related cattle losses above normal mortality. Remember to document your losses, keep appropriate records and file a notice of loss with your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office within 30 calendar days of when the loss is first apparent. There are additional rules and deadlines after that point. A complete LIP fact sheet can be found on the NDSA’s website, http://www.ndstockmen.org.
Similarly, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), which is also administered through the FSA, provides financial assistance for eligible producers for some losses due to disease and adverse weather events or loss conditions, including blizzards. For ELAP, producers must also file notice within 30 days of the loss becoming apparent. An ELAP fact sheet can also be found on the NDSA’s website.
Several members have inquired about what to do about their livestock waste management ponds as they near or have reached capacity due to the flood conditions. The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality has indicated its willingness to help producers and maintain the integrity of the ponds. The agency welcomes them to call the office at (701) 328-5150 during normal business hours or, in an emergency, State Radio at (800) 472-2121 for advice on this matter.
Disaster program availability and details, of course, are constantly evolving, so there is a very good chance some of this information will be outdated and more weather-related resources will be available by the time you read this. For the latest information, be sure to check out our electronic member alerts and posts on our social media channels. If you don’t get NDSA member alerts and notices via e-mail, that means the office does not have your e-mail address. You can add an e-mail to your NDSA membership record by calling us at (701) 223-2522 or e-mailing Leann Rosencrans, the NDSA office manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last, but definitely not least, I know the struggles of the year are weighing heavy on your hearts and minds. As you hustle and bustle and work against the clock to care for your operations, please remember to take care of yourself too. If you need someone to talk to, call a friend or neighbor, our office or 211, a statewide 24-hour crisis intervention, health and human services information and referral line.
During this stressful time, I am reminded of two lines from a daily meditation book that give me hope and I hope they do you too: 1) God doesn’t give us what we can handle; He handles what we are given; and 2) God didn’t bring you this far to abandon you now.