Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner announced USDA has begun sending payments to farmers and ranchers who suffered losses due to weather-related disasters in 2005, 2006 or early 2007.
Although earlier announcements had said the payments authorized under disaster legislation Congress passed last winter could be made as early as October, USDA did not begin distributing checks until Wednesday (Dec. 19). Sources cited delays in getting rules for the payments published in the Federal Register.
“Numerous producers suffered financial hardships in recent years because of floods, wildfires, tornadoes and other weather-related disasters,” Conner said in a press release announcing the payments. “These funds will provide assistance to producers affected by these disasters.”
USDA is currently processing about $1 billion in payments under the Crop Disaster Program, Livestock Compensation Program and Livestock Indemnity Program. Sign-up for these programs is ongoing, the press release said.
The programs provide payments to agricultural producers who suffered crop, livestock and feed losses due to hurricanes, floods, drought or freezes in 2005, 2006, and before Feb. 28, 2007. Producers must choose one year for which to receive payments.
The Crop Disaster Program provides benefits to farmers who suffered quantity and quality losses from natural disasters and related conditions that happened in 2005, 2006 and for 2007 crops if the crop was planted or prevented from being planted before Feb. 28, 2007.
At this time, USDA is only compensating producers for quantity losses under this program Payments for the quality losses will not be distributed until early 2008, after sign-up for quality loss.
The Livestock Compensation Program compensates livestock producers for feed losses resulting from natural disasters that occurred between Jan.1, 2005, and Feb. 28, 2007. Producers who suffered losses caused by blizzards that started in 2006 and continued into 2007 are eligible. Producers in primary or contiguous counties that were declared secretarial disaster areas or counties declared presidential disaster areas between Jan. 1, 2005, and Feb. 28, 2007, are also eligible.
Additionally, USDA will soon issue more than $11 million to Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi and Oklahoma through the LCP Catfish Grant Program. Alabama will receive $3,121,477.94; Florida $34,879.25; Idaho $6,968.00; Mississippi $8,123,840.88; and Oklahoma $5,651.10.
USDA also approved the following six states to receive funds through the Catfish Grant Program: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. USDA will distribute funds to the six states after they conduct sign-up and submit requests for payments.
The Livestock Indemnity Program compensates livestock producers for livestock losses between Jan. 1, 2005, and Feb. 28, 2007, that were caused by natural disasters, including blizzards that started in 2006 and continued into 2007. Producers in primary or contiguous counties that were declared secretarial disaster areas or counties declared presidential disaster areas between Jan.1, 2005, and Feb. 28, 2007, are also eligible.
The “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007,” signed into law on May 25, 2007, by President Bush authorizes CDP, LCP and LIP. USDA’s Farm Service Agency administers the programs.
The Senate-passed version of the farm bill would provide $5 billion for a permanent disaster assistance program. Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., left efforts to include the legislation so Congress would not have to pass ad hoc programs when disasters strike.
Farm-state congressmen began working on a disaster assistance bill shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana Gulf Coast in August 2005. But they were unable to pass the legislation until last February.
Farmers and ranchers can apply to receive benefits through these and other disaster programs by visiting their local FSA service center. Find more information about FSA disaster programs online at: http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.