There's help for naturally caused crop loss... but not livestock

Juan Garcia, Farm Service Agency administrator, talks to the news media about disaster declarations and assistance to agriculture producers during a visit to the University of Idaho Research Center at Parma.

There is help available for agricultural producers who have suffered crop losses because of any of a number of naturally-caused disasters, but livestock producers will have to wait for Congress to return from its recess and hopefully pass a Farm Bill that includes specific emergency assistance for livestock losses.

Those programs have expired, Juan Garcia, who just started serving as Farm Service Agency administrator in July, said, but could be retroactive.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said, adding people will have to see if members of the House and Senate can negotiate their differences.

Garcia, who was in Idaho Wednesday, spoke to members of the news media during a Tour of University of Idaho Research Center — Parma with the members of the National Association of FSA County Office Employees.

“Over 50 percent (more than 2,800) of the counties in the nation have received a secretarial (disaster) designation,” Garcia said.

Many of them are facing serious or severe drought, he said. Among them are Malheur and Harney counties and 11 Idaho counties, including Payette and Gem. However, the disasters were designated in Payette and Gem counties because of fruit damage from hail.

Garcia said secretarial disaster declarations are automatic for areas experiencing eight straight weeks of severe drought.

Malheur and Harney counties are also seeking disaster declarations because of the recent major wildfires that burned thousands of acres of grazing land and killed hundreds of cattle.

Some of the programs to help livestock producers will not be available, however, unless or until Congress acts to renew them.

These include the livestock indemnity program, which provides cash payments to eligible producers for livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality.

Producers who have to sell off their cattle because there is not enough forage can be allowed to shift some of the gains from those sales to the following year, however, Garcia said.

This year’s drought may prove to be very costly to producers, consumers and the federal budget, Garcia noted, and there will be a better idea of how bad it will be with the first ever field forecast for crop yields expected by the end of the week. This report will be based on direct information from growers, Garcia said.

Noting that 65 percent to 70 percent of the major commodity crops producers are covered by insurance compared with 25 percent in 1988, Garcia said he expects many payments will be made on this year’s crops from insurers and the federal government, which subsidizes the coverage.

Also to be determined is the impact on food prices, he said.

“Just about everything you eat has corn in it,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of effect (the drought) will have.”

One thing available to producers is the emergency loan program, which is designed to help producers recover from production and physical losses because of drought, flooding or other natural disasters. Producers can borrow up to $500,000.

Also, the Small Business Administration can use disaster declarations to qualify people for its programs.

“We’re trying to use everything in our tool box to help,” he said.

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Larry Meyer is a reporter for the Argus Observer.

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