Producers Incurred Heavy Costs of Transporting Livestock to Feed Sources This Summer

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-Minn.) are urging the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to expand help for livestock producers in Minnesota and across the country who struggled to feed their herds this summer when severe drought made hay scarce and forced prices to skyrocket.

In a letter Wednesday to FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux, Smith, Klobuchar, and a bipartisan group of 18 of their Senate colleagues pressed to address a gap in coverage under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), which currently provides assistance for the cost of transporting feed to livestock, but doesn’t cover the cost for producers who transport their livestock to feed.

This summer, more than 70 percent of Minnesota experienced severe drought. The impact on cattle farmers was devastating, as many struggled to feed their herds due to widespread hay shortages. In August, Senators Klobuchar and Smith invited U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to meet with farmers in Minnesota so he could hear directly from producers hit hard by drought and discuss efforts to provide relief.

Senator Smith introduced bipartisan legislation this summer to allow emergency haying on federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land, which would protect farmers and ranchers during future drought shortages. Senator Klobuchar is an original cosponsor of this legislation.

Additionally, this summer Senator Klobuchar led the Minnesota Federal Delegation, including Senator Smith, in a letter to Secretary Vilsack urging him to authorize emergency haying and grazing. Senator Klobuchar also led a letter with Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) to Administrator Ducheneaux encouraging emergency haying flexibility when counties move from severe to extreme drought conditions.

“[W]e continue to hear from producers who have been severely affected by drought this year and have incurred costs related to transporting their livestock to feed sources instead of hauling feed to their livestock,” the senators wrote. “Under current regulations, these producers are not eligible for ELAP transportation assistance. We respectfully request that FSA exercise its authority to further improve ELAP by providing payments to producers for a portion of the costs they have incurred from transporting their livestock to feed sources.”

The letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Full letter below:

The Honorable Zach Ducheneaux

Administrator

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency

1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C., 20250

Dear Administrator Ducheneaux:

As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) continues working to assist farmers and ranchers affected by this year’s widespread and devastating drought, we write to request that the agency address a gap in coverage under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).

As you know, ELAP plays a critical role in assisting producers who face losses due to adverse weather events like the severe drought across the country this year.  We appreciate USDA’s recent efforts to improve ELAP coverage by reimbursing producers for a portion of their feed transportation costs and by lowering the threshold for assistance for water transportation costs. 

While livestock producers welcomed these improvements to ELAP assistance, we continue to hear from producers who have been severely affected by drought this year and have incurred costs related to transporting their livestock to feed sources instead of hauling feed to their livestock.  Under current regulations, these producers are not eligible for ELAP transportation assistance.  We respectfully request that FSA exercise its authority to further improve ELAP by providing payments to producers for a portion of the costs they have incurred from transporting their livestock to feed sources.

It is critically important that USDA disaster programs appropriately respond to the challenges that farmers and ranchers face during difficult times.  Thank you for your efforts on behalf of U.S. agriculture and for your prompt consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Issues