Senators propose disaster assistance as drought continues
With a new Congress in session, three U.S. senators have stepped up to pinch hit for the U.S. farmers and ranchers affected by Mother Nature. Sens. Max Baucus, Debbie Stabenow, and Roy Blunt have introduced a bill that will fill the gap that House Resolution 8 -- the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 -- did not. The Relief Act did not include an extension of the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, which expired Sept. 30, 2011, with the 2008 Farm Bill.
This is not the first attempt to pass a disaster bill. Several were introduced.
One of the bills that failed included HR 6233 -- the Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012. The $383 million bill package passed the House by a simple majority vote in August.
With the clock ticking, the 2008 Farm Bill was extended until Sept. 30, as Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, but this did not address the disaster issues.
Why the concern?
Texas was hit with the worst drought in its history in 2011 with ag losses surpassing $7.62 billion. By the end of 2011, officials classified approximately 61.92 percent of Texas and five other states in the South in the extreme to exceptional range on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
In 2012, the drought spread to more than 2,000 U.S. counties, including the American heartland. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service’s U.S. Drought 2012: Farm and Food Impacts report, 67 percent of cattle production and approximately 70-75 percent of corn and soybeans were classified as severe or greater (drought monitor).
“More than 80 percent of the acres of major field crops planted in the United States are covered by Federal crop insurance,” the report stated, “which can help to mitigate yield or revenue losses for covered farms.”
See related article, page 2D, for 2012 U.S. crops acreage yields. ( http://www.wilsoncountynews.com/article.php?id=48938)
The effects of the drought in the cattle industry have forced herd reductions and liquidations, with the cattle herd reaching its lowest level since 1952. Other livestock sectors are beginning to be affected, as well.
In mid-January, Cargill officials announced the closure of the Plainview, Texas, beef processing plant. This plant employed approximately 2,000 people. Tight cattle supplies and the drought were the reasons for the closure.
Sens. Baucus, Stabenow, and Blunt, members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, stated in a Jan. 25 press release, “Many ranchers and farmers will be left with no support to recover from severe fires and drought that swept the country last year as well as early freezes for fruit growers.”
“We cannot allow farmers to be wiped out because of a few days of bad weather,” said Stabenow, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. “Agriculture supports ... 16 million jobs nationwide, and when key parts of the industry are hit this badly it impacts our whole economy.”
Farmers and ranchers are being encouraged to contact their respective U.S. senators to encourage passage of this bill. In the meantime, expect prices for farm commodities to continue to rise.
Ag Disaster Assistance Program
Disaster programs extended with the Baucus, Stabenow, Blunt Act include:
•“Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), which compensates ranchers at a rate of 65 percent market value for livestock mortality caused by disasters and reintroduced animals, such as wolves.
•“Livestock Forage Program (LFP), which assists ranchers who graze livestock on qualifying drought- or fire-affected pasture land.
•“Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP), which compensates producers for disaster losses not covered under other disaster programs.
•“Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for fruit losses, which would make fruit producers who experience losses due to frost or freeze in disaster counties, and did not have access to crop insurance, eligible to purchase 65 percent ‘buy-up’ coverage for losses in 2012.
•“The Tree Assistance Program (TAP), which provides financial assistance to orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.”
Source: Jan. 25 press release from U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry