"HELP is on the way" was the message from Farm Service Agency (FSA) administrator Juan Garcia regarding livestock disaster programs, signups for which will start April 15.
Tasked with the mission from President Barack Obama of providing the disaster relief 60 days from farm bill passage, FSA has delivered on that promise as it officially announced that the signups will indeed be ready for producers who experienced losses in 2011-14 due to disasters.
Garcia told Feedstuffs that the agency, fortunately, had the infrastructure and software in place to allow for swift implementation of the relief that is so vital to producers affected by disasters that range from droughts to the thousands of livestock lost in winter storm Atlas last year.
"If we would have had to start from scratch and develop new software, we wouldn't be in the place we are right now," Garcia said.
The previous farm bill included disaster provisions that expired in 2011 but provided the framework for the tweaks made in the 2014 farm bill.
Garcia reported that FSA field teams consisting of employees from different states worked together to develop the regulations, which will be formally published in the Federal Register soon.
He added that field training occurred at the beginning of April, and states were conducting their field training with county employees the following week.
The forms and software are ready to go; all that's left to be done is to flip the switch April 15, he stated. Counties are already taking appointments, and FSA has been urging producers to collect records documenting losses to help move along the filing process.
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 April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees & 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 include beef cattle, dairy cattle, bison, poultry, sheep, swine, horses and other livestock as determined by the agriculture secretary.
LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have experienced 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.
ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that had losses due to disease, adverse weather or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, as determined by the secretary.
TAP provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.