Op-Ed: State FSA Director Urges Producers Apply for Drought Assistance by October 1Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:20:00 CDT
Op-Ed Written By Francie Tolle, State Farm Service Agency Executive Director
Since late 2011, Oklahoma livestock producers have suffered through one of the worst and longest sustained droughts since the days of the Dust Bowl in the late 1930s, awaiting Congressional enactment of a farm bill so that disaster assistance programs could resume.
When the 2014 Farm Bill was enacted into law this February, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack ensured that disaster programs were restarted in sixty days, by April 15, nearly eighty percent faster than our predecessors.
Five months later, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has approved more than 250,000 applications seeking assistance, exceeding Congressional estimates, and more applications are expected. In Oklahoma alone, FSA has approved over 40,000 Livestock Forage Disaster (LFP) applications and has issued over $568 million in disaster assistance payments. This assistance is critical for producers looking to recover, rebuild their herds and pay off debts. While disaster aid to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers is substantial it is important to note that FSA's disaster payments only pay a portion of the losses that producers have incurred from this severe multi-year drought. LFP payments are capped at 60 percent of the feed cost, so while these programs are not making everyone whole, they are critical to help folks get back on their feet. Losses to livestock producers affect all of agriculture, including the implement dealers, the feed stores, the grain and hay producers and the thousands of small-town merchants who count on farm income for their financial well-being.
Providing three years of livestock disaster assistance in a period of six to nine months is important to us, even while other new Farm Bill programs are being implemented at the same time. That's why FSA has reassigned field employees, with many working overtime and weekends, so that livestock producers get the help they need and deserve. Despite FSA's extensive efforts and overwhelming producer participation, there are more livestock producers in need of assistance who have not yet filed for LFP benefits.
If you've suffered livestock forage or feed grazing losses in 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) may offer help. For ranchers who have not contacted FSA by September 30, 2014, the Budget Control Act of 2011 passed by Congress requires USDA to reduce LFP payments by 7.3 percent beginning October 1, the start of the federal fiscal year.
If you've already registered with your FSA office for LFP assistance, or have an appointment scheduled, you are not subject to the payment reduction. If you haven't yet contacted your local FSA office, please register, request an appointment, or begin an LFP application with your county FSA office by September 30, 2014. Click Here to register online.
The Livestock Forage Disaster Program compensates for grazing losses due to drought or fire. Eligible livestock includes alpacas, beef cattle, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, poultry, reindeer, sheep or swine that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland.
If you are seeking help from other programs like the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Tree Assistance Program, or the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), you'll need to complete your full application before September 30, 2014. Contact your local FSA office for more information. Click Here for an online office directory.
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