Severe storms Producers recoup losses from weather
Across the nation, producers are experiencing severe weather events, from golf ball size hail to severe drought and tornadoes. These events can lead to catastrophic losses of livestock and a sharp decline in a producer’s income.
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) can help producers recoup some of the losses they faced as a result of Mother Nature through their livestock assistance disaster programs.
“The best thing producers can do, in case they ever need to use a FSA livestock disaster program, is to keep good records of their livestock numbers, pregnancy rates, past weaning records, feed records and documentation of weather events,” comments Wyoming FSA State Executive Director, Gregor Goertz.
The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) covers livestock deaths above the normal mortality rate due to severe weather events or losses from reintroduced wildlife species protected by the federal government, like wolves and avian predators.
However, verifying a death from a protected species becomes quite difficult notes Todd Even, FSA chief program specialist. An agent from the Fish and Wildlife Service has to verify and certify a protected predacious animal caused the death.
The program that pays the most in Wyoming is the Livestock Forage Disaster program (LFP), and it covers losses from drought or fire on federal land.
Payments from the LFP program are on adult cattle and non-adult cattle over 500 pounds. A flat rate is paid for sheep, regardless if the animal is a lamb, ewe or ram.
The degree of an area’s drought used for LFP is strictly dependent on the U.S. drought monitor.
“The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) is sort of a catch-all for the other programs and tries to cover what the other ones don’t,” says Goertz.
Producers have up to 15 days after a severe weather event to file their notice of loss with the FSA to be eligible for the disaster programs. They can only apply for disaster programs on a yearly basis and as they endure them.
“As far as our programs are concerned, the better a producer’s records are, the smoother our process is going to go for them and the better the chance they have of getting their request for a loss approved,” states Even.
Even mentions that once a county has been deemed eligible for drought losses, it is up to the producer in that county to come to the FSA and certify they suffered a loss.
There are 17 FSA offices across Wyoming, and local producers from a county elect the county committee that oversees the county office.
“Basically, if a producer suffers any kind of loss above what they consider normal, they need to talk to their FSA county office, and we’ll see if the loss is something we can cover,” describes Goertz.
He continues, “It helps with these programs if producers have filed their acreage reports with us every year prior to a disaster event happening. It makes the process go much smoother.”
Animals covered by the FSA livestock disaster programs are beef and dairy cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and horses used for commercial operations.
“Livestock producers are eligible for drought and death losses they suffered in 2012 and 2013. They just need to come in and sign-up,” explains Goertz. “However, county offices are very busy right now, and producers need to call ahead and make an appointment before they see their county FSA agent.”
Only livestock owners who also have a risk in the land they run their cattle on are eligible to apply for the livestock disaster programs.
“If a producer has ownership in livestock, but no risk in the land by leasing it, they are not eligible for compensation because it’s compensation for the drought on the land, which is determined by livestock numbers,” explains Even. “If a producer is just leasing land by the head, month or day, they are basically just buying feed.”
He adds, “However, it also depends on the terms of the lease that determines if a payment will be made. We see this a lot with yearling operations.”
Producers are only allowed to collect a payment for loss for a total of five months.
A limit on the total amount of payment is set at $125,000 a year for producers. Also, if a producer has an adjusted gross income exceeding $900,000, they are ineligible for any FSA disaster assistance programs.
The livestock disaster assistance programs are part of the 2014 Farm Bill, and funding is approved through 2018.
A national payment price has been established for the disaster programs, and the severity of the drought in each county determines a producer’s eligibility for the disaster programs. The price is calculated by using monthly costs to feed one animal in the year the livestock were sold.
“If producers sold livestock due to the drought within the qualifying period of 60 days prior to the beginning date of the drought, FSA will pay 100 percent of the payment rate for those cattle,” explains Goertz, noting that the qualifying animals are referred to a mitigated livestock. “Qualifying mitigated livestock sold in the preceding two years are paid at 80 percent.”
He adds, “It’s called mitigated livestock because the producer sold them due to the drought. Current year mitigated rates pay 100 percent.”
Severe weather occurrence
Meteorologist Paul Skrbac, from the National Weather Service (NWS), a component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), explains the intense weather occurring across the nation is normal and happens every spring.
“The weather is caused when cold fronts come down from the north and interact with the warm, moist, unstable air coming up from the south, creating strong and severe thunderstorms and intense precipitation,” explains Skrbac.
May and June are the peak of severe weather season across the nation. As summer continues, severe weather from the south will shift northward, causing weather events to happen in the Great Plains and in the Midwest.
“In Wyoming, there is not a lot of moisture availability like there is in other places, which leads to less of a clash of air masses and severe precipitation to occur,” states Skrbac. “Weather clashes can happen in Wyoming, though.”
The Climate Predictions Center forecasted July to have a decent chance of above normal precipitation across all of Wyoming, and temperatures for the eastern one-third of the state have odds of being cooler than normal.
The three-month outlook for July, August and September predicts the monsoonal rain patterns will start to move in.
“Across the whole state of Wyoming, forecasts are saying Wyoming will receive above normal precipitation levels with the best odds being in the southwest portion of the state in Sweetwater and Uinta counties,” states Skrbar. “Temperatures, however, may actually be below normal for east of the Continental Divide.”
Skrbar adds the western part of Wyoming had equal chances of the temperature being either above or below normal temperatures.
The NWS website weather.gov/riverton, Facebook and Twitter are all continuously updated when a weather event is forecasted. The website displays all warning areas occurring in the state and features an option to select a specific location to receive a seven-day forecast.