Federal disaster assistance has been made available for livestock losses due to severe weather, even to producers who suffered losses two years ago from drought. But, the amount of aid is in dispute.
Nebraska Farm Service Agency Director Dan Steinkruger agrees Nebraska producers have been hit hard by severe weather the last few years.
“The drought had a substantial impact in our cattle herd in 2012 and 2013 and then we had some unusual events that caused these other livestock losses,” Steinkruger tells Nebraska Radio Network. “So, yeah, we have had more than our share of problems the last couple of years.”
A wide range of severe weather has caused cattle losses in Nebraska.
Drought in 2012 took its toll. Steinkruger says the state lost some cow-calf operations due to the severe drought two years ago. Others lost cattle.
A freak snowstorm in October of 2013 killed cattle in western Nebraska.
The thunderstorms and tornadoes of June this year killed an estimated one thousand head.
The 2014 Farm Bill makes aid to livestock producers retroactive to 2012 through the Livestock Indemnity Program, a fact not all producers understand, according to Steinkruger.
The program itself has come under fire by the Nebraska Congressional delegation, which asserts that the United States Department of Agriculture is miscalculating how much aid should be made available, costly some producers as much as $300 a head.
The delegation has written Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking for a calculation correction. The letter claims some producers who suffered losses in the June tornadoes discovered the USDA used outdated data.
Steinkruger says the USDA is aware of the complaints.
“Those issues really come down to the department’s interpretation of the statutes and the best way to implement them. And that’s really the difference of opinion,” according to Steinkruger. “So, I know the department is taking another look at those issues that were raised by Nebraska’s delegation.”
A copy of the letter can be found below:
July 2, 2014
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We write to request that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) revise its methodology for calculating payment amounts for the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP).
During the week of June 16, 2014, tornadoes devastated the town of Pilger, Nebraska and severely damaged crop and livestock operations in the surrounding area. Producers who had livestock killed by the tornadoes have sought relief from the LIP program that was recently extended by Congress with passage of the 2014 farm bill. But after producers read the payment schedule produced by FSA, they realize they will receive much less from FSA than they are entitled to receive under the statute.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 states that “payments to an eligible producer on a farm… shall be made at a rate of 75 percent of the market value of the applicable livestock on the day before the date of death of the livestock, as determined by the Secretary.” However, the rule implementing LIP states that “The LIP national payment rate for eligible livestock owners is based on 75 percent of the average fair market value of the applicable livestock as computed using nationwide prices for the previous calendar year unless some other price is approved by the Deputy Administrator.”
These are clearly not the same standard. We appreciate that FSA may have some constraints on availability of appropriate data, but it is clearly unfair to producers who expect relief based on the plain language of the law to then find out that the relief received will be significantly less than 75 percent of the market value of their livestock. For example, according to the LIP fact sheet published by FSA in April, the payment rate for feeder steers weighing 800 pounds or more is $1,149, but data from the Agriculture Marketing Service indicate that 75 percent of the average value of an 800-900 pound steer was approximately $1,278 the week before the tornadoes hit Pilger, a difference of $129 per head. Moreover, producers also experienced losses for cattle that were at their finished weight of approximately 1400 pounds. Using the data from the Agriculture Marketing Service, 75 percent of the average value for a finished steer was $1,479, for a difference of $330 per head.
Therefore, we request that you direct FSA to calculate relief for livestock producers based on market values that more accurately reflect the plain reading of the statute.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]