The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Disaster relief available for losses before October 1

BRAINERD, Minn. — Crop, livestock and other producers who have suffered losses from natural disasters this year will be eligible for government payments if they can prove that the losses occurred before Oct. 1, a key Agriculture Department official said here this week.

Sept. 30 is the expiration date of five disaster programs created by Congress in the 2008 farm bill. The biggest and best known is the supplemental agricultural disaster assistance program known as SURE, but there are other programs that provide assistance for livestock, honeybee, catfish and tree farmers.

In order to make the disaster programs fit within the constraints of the farm bill budget, Congress declared that they would expire at the end of the 2011 government fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. But in a speech to the Minnesota Corn growers’ group, Brandon Willis, a senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, noted that if a loss occurs before that date, “it will be covered.”

Willis, previously deputy administrator of the Farm Service Agency, noted that to be eligible for the programs, producers must have obtained a policy or plan of insurance through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation and obtained Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) coverage, if available, from the Farm Service Agency. The only exception is for farmers and ranchers who meet the definition of “Socially Disadvantaged,” “Limited Resource,” or “Beginning Farmer or Rancher.” Persons or legal entities whose average non-farm income exceeds $500,000 are not eligible for the disaster payments.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is used to trigger eligiblity for the livestock, forage and grazing disaster programs and those payments are made fairly quickly, Willis said. The rules for the livestock, forage, honeybee, catfish and tree disaster programs generally require producers to submit applications within 90 days of the loss.

But the rules for the SURE program are different, and crop producers may have to wait up to two years to receive their money. USDA just closed the applications for the 2009 crop year losses and has not yet scheduled the application period for 2010.

According to the USDA Farm Service Agency website, producers must suffer a 10 percent production loss to at least one crop of economic significance on their farm in order to be eligible for SURE. For a loss to be a qualifying loss, it must be caused by a natural disaster.

A crop of economic significance is one that contributes at least 5 percent of the expected revenue for a producer’s farm. Forage crops intended for grazing are not eligible for SURE benefits.

Also, a producer must have a farming interest physically located in a county that was declared a primary disaster county or contiguous county by the secretary of Agriculture or have actual production on the farm that was less than 50 percent of the normal production on the farm due to a natural disaster.

A limit of $100,000 per person and legal entity collectively received, directly and indirectly, applies to the combination of payments from SURE and the livestock disaster programs administered by FSA: Livestock Forage Program (LFP), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish (ELAP).

The farm bill authorized the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) to provide benefits for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2008, and before Oct. 1, 2011, including losses because of hurricanes, floods, blizzards, disease, wildfires, extreme heat and extreme cold.

The livestock death losses must have also occurred in the calendar year for which benefits are being requested.

LIP provisions are similar to other livestock indemnity programs implemented by FSA in recent years except that an owner or contract grower’s livestock do not have to be located in a county or contiguous county designated a natural disaster by the president or declared by the secretary of agriculture. Under the current LIP, an owner or contract grower’s livestock payments are based on individual producers’ losses. To be eligible for LIP, a livestock producer must have legally owned the eligible livestock on the day the livestock died.

The Livestock Forage disaster program provides financial assistance to producers who suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire on or after Jan. 1, 2008, and before Oct. 1, 2011, during the calendar year in which the loss occurs. Fire losses must have occurred on federally managed lands.

The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish (ELAP) covers some species, loss conditions, and losses that are not eligible for other disaster assistance programs, including colony collapse disorder and wildfires on non-federal land.

To be eligible for a payment under LIP, LFP or ELAP, the notice of loss must be submitted to the FSA office 30 calendar days after the loss of livestock was apparent to the producer, and no later than 30 calendar days after the end of the year in which the loss of livestock occurred.

The Tree Assistance Program (TAP) provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters occurring on or after Jan. 1, 2008, and before Oct. 1, 2011.

Eligible trees, bushes and vines are those from which an annual crop is produced for commercial purposes. Nursery trees include ornamental, fruit, nut and Christmas trees produced for commercial sale. Trees used for pulp or timber are ineligible.

Applications must be filed for tree assistance at the FSA county office within 90 calendar days of the disaster event or date upon which the loss of trees, bushes, or vines is apparent to the producer.