Saturday, January 22, 2022

Senators Request Additional Assistance for Livestock Producers Affected by Drought

by Colter Brown
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(U.S. Senate) – United States Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont) and John Thune (R-S.D.) this week led a bipartisan group of senators in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) to address a gap in coverage under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). In September, USDA announced it would provide ELAP assistance for the cost of transporting feed to livestock, but producers who are transporting their livestock to feed are not eligible for the program.

“We continue to hear from producers who have been severely affected by drought this year and have incurred costs related to transporting their livestock to feed sources instead of hauling feed to their livestock,” the Senators wrote. “Under current regulations, these producers are not eligible for ELAP transportation assistance. We respectfully request that FSA exercise its authority to further improve ELAP by providing payments to producers for a portion of the costs they have incurred from transporting their livestock to feed sources.”

Tester pushed for expanded ELAP funding through his bipartisan Livestock Disaster Relief Act, which he recently introduced to help Montana ranchers impacted by drought keep their livestock alive and their operations afloat. The legislation was introduced in response to Montana facing severe drought across the state and experiencing one of its most harmful wildfire seasons in the past decade, resulting in decreased feeding capabilities for Montana’s livestock producers.

ELAP provides financial assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish for losses due to disease, certain adverse weather events or loss conditions as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. ELAP already covers the cost of hauling water during drought. USDA expanded the program beginning in 2021 to cover feed transportation costs where grazing and hay resources have been depleted following a push by Senator Tester.

In the current ELAP program, producers in qualifying drought areas are eligible to be reimbursed for feed transportation costs which will not include the first 25 miles and distances exceeding 1,000 transportation miles. The calculation also excludes the normal cost to transport hay or feed if the producer normally purchases some feed. For 2021, the initial cost formula of $6.60 per mile will be used (before the percentage is applied), but may be adjusted on a state or regional basis.

To be eligible for ELAP assistance, livestock must be intended for grazing and producers must have incurred feed transportation costs on or after Jan. 1, 2021. Although producers will self-certify losses and expenses to FSA, producers are encouraged to maintain good records and retain receipts and related documentation in the event these documents are requested for review by the local FSA County Committee. The deadline to file an application for payment for the 2021 program year is Jan. 31, 2022.

Producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency Office to learn more.

Read the Senators’ full letter HERE.

 

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