|Congress Acknowledges Hardships with Disaster Assistance
(July 1, 2007) On May 24, the hardships and losses suffered by sheep producers due to the severe weather we have had the past few years were acknowledged. Congress approved disaster assistance relief for crop and livestock producers for the years of 2005, 2006 or 2007.
The $3 billion in agriculture disaster assistance was included in the 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, which includes funding for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I couldn’t be more pleased that we were able to get this legislation passed through Congress. It has been a long road, as the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) has been diligently working to get disaster assistance for more than 18 months.
The assistance will especially help those producers who were hit hard by drought conditions that have swept through the core of our sheep-producing states. Prior to this drought, the U.S. sheep industry had two consecutive years of growth. However, all indications show that the lack of feed and water due to the drought have caused the sheep inventory to dip slightly.
For those who have suffered natural disaster-related losses, the disaster aid will come in two forms.
First, the Livestock Compensation Program (LCP) will provide benefit for producers in designated disaster counties for their added cost having to buy feed in 2005, 2006 or 2007. The payment rate for this program will be 61 percent of the payment made by producers.
The second aid is the Livestock Indemnity Program. This program will cover livestock deaths due to natural disasters, such as flood, wildfires, blizzards and hurricanes. Again, this program is available for one of the years of 2005, 2006 or 2007 and has a payment rate of not less that 26 percent of market value of the livestock the day before the date of death.
The Livestock Compensation Program will help our producers who are dealing with bills and debt that have piled up because of higher feed costs.
I have heard, however, that it may take five months or so for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to be ready for the disaster program sign up. FSA Deputy Administrator John Johnson has said that the agency will deliver the funds as soon as possible but are awaiting a new computer system, as its current one is overtaxed.
But, even with the short delay, the passage of these disaster aid programs are a victory for the sheep industry. This assistance will hopefully be the boost our industry needs to get back to an industry growth period that will continue for several years in the future.
As always, ASI will continue to provide you with updates on the disaster assistance funds and their availability, but I encourage you to get in touch with your local or regional FSA office to find out more about the program and if you can qualify for funds.
In 2002, ASI obtained the LCP program and a preferential rate for sheep that resulted in well over 29,000 sheep operations applying.