More than 100,000 disaster assistance claims have been processed to farmers in 40 states for losses experienced between October 2011 and the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday.
In releasing a 12-week progress report on the payments, Vilsack said USDA had achieved its goal of getting disaster assistance programs up and running in 60 days.
"Farmers and ranchers who waited two and a half years for a Farm Bill are now getting some relief," he said. More than 106,000 payments have gone to farmers and ranchers for drought, blizzard, and other weather-related losses.
In February, the Farm Service Agency announced that enrollment for four disaster assistance programs would begin April 15, 2014, 60 days from the date the programs were reestablished by the 2014 Farm Bill. After the 2008 Farm Bill, it took more than a year for the programs to get up and running.
Since then, FSA staff and temporary employees have processed $1.2 billion in payments to qualifying farmers and ranchers. The first payments were sent out to farmers and ranchers within two weeks of enrollment.
Overall, USDA estimated that roughly $2.5 billion would be provided in disaster relief to cover losses from October 2011 through September 2014. If those estimates prove accurate, it would mean nearly half of all disaster payments have already been provided.
While disaster relief can prevent farmers and ranchers who do not have access to crop insurance from being wiped out by weather-related losses beyond their control, most producers only receive support equal to 60 percent of their actual losses, USDA said.
Programs and deadlines
The Livestock Forage Disaster Program and the Livestock Indemnity Program provides payments for grazing losses due to drought and livestock deaths due to adverse weather.
The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program provides assistance for livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish losses due to disease, weather, wildfires and colony collapse disorder, or for losses not covered under other disaster assistance programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill.
Related: Livestock Disaster Aid Prioritized
The Tree Assistance Program provides financial assistance to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate trees, bushes and vines that were lost or damaged by natural disasters.
Specific program deadlines are as follows:
• 2011-2013 ELAP – Friday, Aug. 1, 2014
• 2011-2014 LFP – Friday, Jan. 30, 2015
• 2011-2014 LIP – Friday, Jan. 30, 2015
• 2011-2014 TAP – Monday, Feb. 2, 2015
Producers affected by adverse weather should contact their FSA county office to make an appointment and learn if they are eligible for disaster assistance, USDA said.