beef cattle pasture

Group says protection from weather required for livestock assistance

Humane Farming Assn. petitions USDA to cease payments to producers who do not provide livestock protection from weather.

On Monday, the Humane Farming Assn. (HFA) filed a petition with the Trump Administration to cease the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) payments to “producers who do not protect their livestock from adverse weather,” the group said in a statement.

The USDA Farm Service Agency's (FSA) LIP provides compensation to livestock producers who incur death losses from inclement weather. Producers receive compensation in the amount of 75% of the animals' market value at up to $125,000 per year.

Records received by HFA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) revealed that, in the last three years, LIP issued payments of $134,140,346 to farmers and ranchers for animal deaths due primarily to weather-related issues. Total animal deaths included 202,445 livestock and 2,461,443 poultry.

Each year, tens of thousands of farm animals suffer and die needlessly from exposure to the elements, HFA said. In 2013, Winter Storm Atlas ripped through South Dakota, killing an estimated 70,000 cattle. In 2015, Winter Storm Goliath killed roughly 40,000 dairy cows and calves in the Southwest; most of the animals were trapped under snow drifts and suffocated. In summer, thousands of cattle confined in feedlots without any protection from the sun died from heat stroke.

"Instead of providing adequate shelter to vulnerable livestock, producers who do not assure protections from adverse weather are rewarded with a government check," HFA national director Bradley Miller said. "Compensating producers for dead livestock without ever requiring adequate shelter is actually a disincentive to farmers and ranchers to take the necessary steps to provide their animals with protections from inclement weather. Without this compensation, many producers would, no doubt, make an effort to provide for their animals. Instead, massive numbers of neglected livestock are dying painfully and needlessly, and taxpayers are footing the bill."

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