Come in soon and bring your records.
That’s the gist of the message Texas Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Judith Canales offers to livestock and forage producers across the state.
Signup for the livestock disaster programs begins April 15, the first opportunity for farmers and ranchers to take advantage of new or extended programs in the recently passed Agriculture Act of 2014.
“Texas has a huge stake in the livestock program,” Canales said during a presentation yesterday at the Texas Ag Forum in Austin. “Our staff was heavily involved in developing guidelines for the program.” She also commended “key personnel,” with Texas AgriLife Extension for contributions to the program.
She encouraged producers to set appointments. “We want to work with producers and re-enforce the need to set an appointment,” she said. “That gives us time to get their paperwork in order. Some parts of the state are already working off appointments.”
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She said scheduling visits to local FSA offices will help the agency deal with what she expects to be a high volume of traffic with a scaled-down staff. “An 18 percent reduction of staff, salaries and expense funding since 2010 creates a challenge,” she said. The complexity of the new program adds to the pressure. Funds have been allocated for FSA to hire temporary staff to help with sign-up, Canales said. “We will take advantage of that opportunity.”
Canales said producers should come in with all the documentation necessary to process claims. “That will allow us to move quickly through the process,” she said.
She said produces are no longer required to have crop insurance to qualify for the livestock disaster program.
The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), which were suspended last year and re-instated as permanent law with the new farm program, will offer assistance to producers affected by the drought that has damaged livestock and forage for three years or more. “The program is pro-rated back to 2011,” Canales said. Also available for signup April 15 will be the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP).
She expects long-term drought will result in a heavy signup for livestock disaster assistance. “We have 240 counties in the state with drought designations,” she said. “We have another nine contiguous counties, leaving only five that are not in drought status.
“We hope to get folks signed up soon,” she said. As Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) signup begins in the fall, FSA traffic will increase. She also noted that Texas typically accounts for a big chunk of FSA participation, 11 percent to 12 percent of the national total for specific programs.
With a more complex commodity title and unique programs in the new law, Canales expects the Texas FSA to see “a lot of activity.”