August 28, 2014

Assistance this year could offset livestock losses last year (AUDIO)

It might be late, but help is now available for livestock producers suffering weather-related losses.

Western Nebraska livestock producers lost two thousand head of cattle in the early October blizzard last year. They lost out on assistance as well. Congress, in an effort to save money, didn’t fund the final year of the Livestock Indemnity Program in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the new Farm Bill makes up for that and even provides assistance retroactively.

Vilsack says, so far, more than 13,000 producers have applied for assistance and the USDA has shelled out $4.5 million.

“We anticipate and expect that’s just the beginning,” Vilsack tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “We’re going to see probably by the time it’s all said and done several billion dollars spent and invested in getting these livestock producers back on their feet.”

The October storm caught the Panhandle off-guard. The storm first brought freezing rain, coating cattle which hadn’t grown their winter coats, yet. Ranchers hadn’t moved cattle to more protected pastures, normally closer to the farm house.

Once the storm began, it stayed for a while, longer than normal, dumping 10-to-12 inches of snow in western Nebraska.

It hit South Dakota even harder as it moved north. Thousands more head of cattle died in South Dakota.

Vilsack says consumers benefit from the disaster programs as well by providing producers the means to keep their cattle, rather than selling them off, which drives up meat prices.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]