Livestock Forage Program covers grazing losses due to fire and droughtWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Worland – “The Livestock Forage Program (LFP) in the Farm Bill has kept us really busy this last year in the county office,” noted Sherri Harvey, director of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Washakie and Hot Springs Counties at WESTI Ag Days on Feb. 4.
The purpose of LFP is to provide compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to drought conditions or fire on federally managed lands.
“All counties in the Bighorn Basin qualified under drought conditions in 2012 and 2013,” she added.
The Basin received enough rainfall in 2014 that LFP did not cover any losses, and it is too soon to tell what conditions will be like in the coming year.
“The U.S. drought monitor is what we use to determine what is eligible and what is not for LFP,” she explained.
The U.S. drought monitor classifies drought severity, using a scale from D0 to D4. D0 indicates a drought watch area that may be at risk, and D4 indicates the most intense situation, with exceptional water shortages.
“We have 30 days after the end of the year, until Jan. 30, to file our applications for losses,” commented Harvey.
Should an event occur that qualifies a county for LFP relief, FSA distributes information in emails, letters, newspaper articles and town meetings.
“Drought must have occurred on native or improved, permanent, vegetative cover, small grains or forage sorghum planted specifically for grazing and must be physically located in the county that has been qualified by the U.S. drought monitor,” she added.
Payments depend on the intensity rating and duration of water shortages in the area.
“A qualifying fire must have occurred on rangeland managed by a federal agency and producers must have been prohibited from grazing their livestock on that rangeland,” Harvey stated.
Livestock that would have normally grazed in the county during the normal grazing season but were moved due to drought conditions to another county would also qualify.
“Covered livestock include adult and non-adult beef cattle, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, alpacas, deer, elk, emus, equine and goats,” she said.
Ineligible livestock include those maintained for non-commercial use, such as consumption by the owner, hunting, rodeo stock, pets, show and pleasure animals.
“Yaks, ostriches, beef, dairy, buffalo and beefalo that are under 500 pounds on the first beginning date of a qualifying drought or fire, for a specific forage type and wild free-roaming livestock are also ineligible,” she added.
Harvey advised owners to keep good records of their livestock to illustrate which animals are covered under LFP in the case of an eligible event.
“Eligible grazing lands include state and federal leases leased on a long-term basis with lessee contribution inputs, grazing land leased for cash or a fixed amount and private land or leased grazing land,” she explained.
Ineligible land includes irrigated crops or pasture, acres intended for grain and small grains intended for harvest as forage or seed, and acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
“Ineligible grazing land is land leased on a basis of weight gain, a cost per head per day or per month, or on an animal unit month only basis where the lessee incurs no expense for the maintenance,” she added.
Harvey reminded producers that they cannot receive duplicate payments under LFP, the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) or the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP).If a producer qualifies for losses under multiple programs, she said, “In our county offices, we typically take an application from both losses and figure out the payments, paying whichever is going to pay the producer the most money.”
Participants who receive payments under ELAP, LFP or LIP must maintain their books, records and accounts for three years following the end of the program year in which they participate.
“Any time in those three years, a producer could be pulled for spot check and at that time they would need to produce those records,” she commented.
Built into the 2014 Farm Bill, ELAP, LFP and LIP are all currently in place and approved until 2018.
ELAP and LIP have been discussed in previous editions of the Roundup. More information regarding any of these programs can be found at local FSA offices or online at fsa.usda.gov.