Tips and Resources for Ranches Affected by the 2017 Drought
It can be difficult to navigate the myriad of options available for disaster relief—and, in some cases, equally difficult to prove eligibility. This article outlines resources, programs, and options and offers tips for ranchers seeking disaster recovery assistance.
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is taking applications for several drought and disaster recovery assistance programs aimed at assisting livestock producers in their efforts to recover from the 2017 drought, which has been one of the most severe droughts ever experienced by ranchers located in the northern plains region.
The primary program is the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP). This program provides payment to compensate for the loss of grazing on privately owned or cash-leased land. It also provides some assistance to producers who are prohibited from grazing their livestock on federally managed lands as the result of a fire.
The LFP calculations are relatively complex and are generally the lower of two calculations:
- The number of eligible livestock times a $30/month rate, times 60%, for a four- or five-month period, depending on the severity of the drought.
- This calculation could be limited by an “acres per head” calculation that is established by each county. For example, Phillips County, Montana, uses a rate of 26 acres per head.
To be eligible, there are several gates to get yourself through:
- The rancher needs to be eligible for payment.
- The county needs to be eligible.
- The livestock needs to be eligible.
- There is a maximum payment limit of $125,000 that applies to the combination of all livestock disaster program payments. This is a limit separate from the farm program payment limit of the same amount.
- Proof of livestock ownership, number of head, and coordination with leases and operating agreements must be proven and provided to the FSA office.
- The producer must complete and file an application for benefits.
Some of these requirements and the related documentation can be detailed and complex, especially for operations with several legal entities and/or separate ownership of real estate, livestock, and lease or operating agreements. Care should be taken to obtain guidance prior to submitting a completed application.
In addition, most FSA offices are requesting that applications be submitted no later than November 1, 2017.
There are two other programs of note. They are the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).
The LIP is intended to reimburse for livestock deaths caused by eligible adverse weather conditions, although drought itself is not a condition that qualifies for this program.
The ELAP provides emergency relief for losses as a result of feed or watch shortages, disease, and other conditions that are not adequately addressed by the other disaster programs. One example that could apply under ELAP is the cost of hauling water to livestock whose water supply dried up or became unsafe to consume.
Time Is of the Essence
If you or someone you know has suffered damages as a result of this year’s drought and fire disasters, please move swiftly to identify your options and make a correct and accurate application for benefits with your county’s FSA office.
The best resources and guidance are found at the local FSA offices, as well as in the USDA FSA Handbook, which can be located on the USDA website.
As always, we are committed to helping producers. We would be happy to answer your financial questions or help you navigate the complexities of the application process. Contact us today.