USDA focuses on farm bill implementation

Livestock assistance top of farm bill rollout list as Congressional members seek shorter implementation timeline.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said during the last several months his agency has been convening groups and prioritizing programs that should be rolled out first once the farm bill was passed.

He said USDA will be concentrating on rolling out disaster assistance as “quick as we possibly can” which should be fairly simple since it is more of a procedural process with the similarities of the new livestock disaster assistance with those included in the 2008 farm bill. The 2008 provisions expired in 2011, but the latest bill does provide retroactive assistance to producers.

Members of Congress called on Vilsack to expedite implementation of the livestock disaster programs. In the Senate, Sens. John Thune (R., S.D.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.), joined with 22 other colleagues in sending a letter outlining that after the 2008 farm bill it took over a year for sign-ups to occur under the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). The said because of the similarities between the 2008 and 2014 Farm bill LIP and LFP they expected USDA to implement the programs within a “much shorter timeframe.”

The 2014 Farm Bill’s LIP is the only economic assistance available to most of these livestock producers devastated by winter storm Atlas that killed more than 20,000 cattle, sheep, horses and bison in the Dakotas and Nebraska. They wrote that without LIP, many will be unable to adequately rebuild their herds and sustain their ranching operations.

Because LFP uses the U.S. Drought Monitor to determine county eligibility and whether payments will be made for one, two, or the maximum of three months, this eligibility information should already be determined by USDA for 2012 and 2013 losses, the senators added.

They asked for an update on the timeline by Feb. 14, 2014 on the status of LIP and LFP implementation including the timeframe for policy and software development, rulemaking, signup and issuance of payments. “Our livestock producers and their lenders need this information so they can plan accordingly,” they wrote.

Programs with more detailed changes and reform will take more time, Vilsack explained. The farm bill does provide more choices for producers.

Crop producers will have the choice between the Price Loss coverage option which better handles heavy losses over multiple years and works in tandem with crop insurance or the Agriculture Risk Coverage which is a more traditional insurance approach with shallow-loss protection based on price and yields.

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