By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy
A 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) bulletin notes that ongoing monitoring of climate data has led experts to anticipate “an increase in areas experiencing droughts and the occurrence of more intense precipitation events.” It’s self-evident to farmers and ranchers that greater incidence of these extreme weather events would negatively impact productivity and profitability.
As climate change increases the frequency of these damaging weather events, farmers should be aware that USDA offers resources that may help them buy hay or feed when disaster strikes. Livestock producers who endure grazing losses due to drought or fire may receive assistance through the Livestock Forage Program (LFP).
Eligibility determinations are made on a county-by-county basis. Producers who own or lease pasture in either a county that maintains a U.S. Drought Monitor D2 designation for at least eight consecutive weeks within the normal grazing period, or D3 or D4 designations for any period during that time, may receive payments from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Payment amounts are calculated depending on the severity and duration of the conditions. Many common grazing livestock species invoke eligibility, but the list may not be complete. For example, markets for pasture-raised rabbits are growing, but rabbits are not an eligible species today. Some rules, like the requirement that eligible livestock be owned or contracted for purchase during the 60 days prior to the beginning date of the qualifying condition, are intended to prevent bad actors from buying livestock during a drought in order to receive payment.
Interested producers have 30 days from the end of the calendar year in which the grazing loss occurred to get their paperwork in. The payment calculations, limitations, and the process of submitting the application and supporting documents are not easy. The availability of funds is also subject to political processes. The more programs like this are used, the more expensive and likely less politically popular they become. The precarious position disaster programs like LFP are in encourage farmers to take decisive steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change rather than rely on a volatile Congress and an onerous application process to make them whole.
Livestock producers can check payment conditions in their country here.
Have you ever sought relief from drought or fire-damage forage through LFP? How was your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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