USDA will begin expediting livestock disaster programs |

USDA will begin expediting livestock disaster programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today announced that after her strong urging, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will expedite implementation of the livestock disaster programs reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill.

On April 14, the USDA will begin accepting applications for the livestock disaster assistance for losses dating back to October of 2011. Payments will be made to livestock producers on a rolling basis until the backlog of claims are processed.

Heitkamp helped include the provisions in the Farm Bill which will provide crucial assistance to ranchers and growers – including those who lost much of their cattle herds in the severe snow storm in October. Last week, Heitkamp led a bipartisan effort to strongly urge USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to expedite implementation of livestock disaster programs. And just this week, Heitkamp met with Secretary Vilsack in person to continue to press for these programs to quickly help ranchers and growers.

“A major snowstorm in southwestern North Dakota, as well as recent droughts, severely hurt our ranchers. It has been one of my top priorities to get them the relief they need, and get it as soon as possible. By cutting through some red tape, we were able to expedite this support, so our ranchers have access to the disaster relief we fought so hard to include in the Farm Bill,” said Heitkamp, a member of the Agriculture Committee. “After months of working to pass a long-term Farm Bill, my fight for our ranchers and growers will continue. My focus is now to push for action on these types of crucial programs and make sure the legislation is implemented in a way that works best for North Dakotans. Eligible ranchers should reach out to their local Farm Service Agency office as soon as possible to sign up for relief.”

The announcement and Heitkamp’s work on livestock disaster assistance were praised by North Dakota ranchers.

“In the Dakotas, our ranchers have felt the dire consequences of not having livestock disaster assistance available. The storm in October devastated so many of our cattle herds – the livelihoods for so many of us. But many ranchers had no recourse because programs to help them pick up their feet weren’t available,” said Kenny Graner, President of the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota. “But now things have changed. Today’s announcement is great news for ranchers all across North Dakota and South Dakota, and especially for some of our neighbors who would be forced out of business if this support wasn’t made available. Senator Heitkamp understood the need for this assistance. She fought for us to get a Farm Bill passed, and worked to make sure our ranchers and growers are protected. Because of her efforts, we are now seeing a much quicker turnaround of this support than ever before.”

“We’re grateful for Senator Heitkamp’s efforts to push for expedited livestock disaster assistance and appreciate that USDA recognized the importance of expediting the reauthorization of the livestock disaster assistance programs, which will help producers who suffered catastrophic weather-related losses recoup,” said North Dakota Stockmen’s Association President and Towner, N.D., cow-calf producer Jason Zahn. “Renewal and retroactive of application of the livestock disaster programs were the Stockmen’s Association’s no. 1 farm bill priority and took on added significance after winter storm Atlas, which claimed tens of thousands of animals in the Dakotas in October 2013.”

To sign up for disaster relief, North Dakotans should contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency Office. Applications will begin being accepted in 60 days, and ranchers will need documentation of their losses. For more information, visit here.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, which was signed into law last week, Heitkamp pushed to include investments in a permanent livestock disaster program so that ranchers can survive catastrophic losses. In October 2013, winter storm Atlas, an unexpected early fall blizzard, killed more than 20,000 cattle, sheep, horses and bison in the Dakotas and Nebraska, leaving many livestock producers with less than 50 percent of their livestock herds surviving. The disaster relief is backdated to October 2011, so North Dakota’s ranchers who experienced losses last year will be covered. F

–Senator Heitkamp

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