U.S. SENATE News:
- Farm Bill provision would ensure new and retroactive aid for ranchers who have had to cut back their herds during N.M. drought
WASHINGTON–U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced that they have sent a bipartisan letter signed by a coalition of senators to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, encouraging the USDA to expedite the implementation of the livestock disaster programs reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill’s disaster assistance programs are critical for New Mexico’s livestock producers, who have had to cut back their herds in the wake of several years of drought. It is estimated that New Mexico’s herd has been reduced by as much as 50 percent. The effect of the drought on ranching operations has been made worse because disaster assistance expired on Sept. 30, 2011, and was not renewed until the Farm Bill was signed into law last week. The Farm Bill extends the disaster assistance program another 10 years and makes it retroactive to compensate ranchers for their losses since 2011.
The authorized disaster programs include the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), which provides payments to eligible producers who suffered grazing losses because of drought, and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), which provides payments to eligible producers for abnormal livestock losses due to adverse weather, among other programs.
In a similar situation, in 2008, LFP and LIP sign-ups did not begin for over a year following the programs’ authorization in the Farm Bill because USDA needed to publish regulations, develop policy and software and begin implementation. In their letter to Vilsack, the senators encouraged him to move more quickly because the new Farm bill makes few changes to these programs.
“Due to the magnitude of pasture, forage and livestock losses and the urgent need for financial assistance these losses have created, we strongly urge you to place implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill livestock disaster programs as a top priority,” the senators wrote. “Considering the similarities of the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bill LIP and LFP, it is our expectation and request that USDA implement these programs within a much shorter timeframe than it did after the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill.”
Udall said, “New Mexico farmers and ranchers are struggling with severe and ongoing drought, and those challenges have had a ripple effect across our state’s rural economy. The Farm Bill livestock disaster programs offer some much-needed relief. I urge Secretary Vilsack to move quickly to ensure New Mexico farmers and ranchers receive the support and resources needed to rebuild their herds and to recover from the devastating effects of prolonged drought.”
Heinrich said, “For years, New Mexico has had drier summers and less snowpack in the winter, directly impacting our agriculture industry and economy. The ongoing drought has been devastating for our farmers and ranchers, underscoring the critical need for these disaster assistance and risk management tools to help them rebound. I urge Secretary Vilsack to implement the Farm Bill livestock disaster programs as soon as possible to provide much-needed relief.”
In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the letter was signed by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Max Baucus (D-MT), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Boozman (R-AR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), James Inhofe (R-OK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Udall (D-CO) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
The full text of the letter is available HERE: