Disaster Assistance Coming Quickly Under The New Farm Bill

Disaster Assistance Coming Quickly Under The New Farm Bill

With the new farm bill now in place, rulemaking and program implementation is expected to follow over the next several months. The first new programs out the door to help producers will be the disasater assistance programs.

These programs have a long history in ad hoc emergency legislation and were eventually authorized as standing programs in the 2008 Farm Bill, but with an expiration date of 2011 due to budget constraints. As the farm bill deliberations lingered through 2012, the expired disaster assistance programs were continually mentioned as an urgent need, but were not addressed to respond to the drought and other disaster losses that year. At the end of 2012, the then-expired 2008 Farm Bill was extended  for one year, including re-authorization of the disaster assistance programs for 2012 and 2013. However, the extension did not provide mandatory funding for disaster assistance and a lack of appropriations negated any help through 2013 as well. Now that the 2014 Farm Bill has been approved, the disaster assistance programs are both re-authorized and supported with mandatory funding, meaning the programs can be implemented and benefits provided as needed to address agricultural disasters. The programs are also re-authorized retroactively to 2012 to pick up the cumulative losses that have yet to be covered by the programs.

The disaster assistance includes the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) for abnormal death losses due to agricultural disasters, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for drought and fire losses to grazing capacity, the Emergency Assistance Program for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP) for other livestock disaster losses, and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) for disaster losses for orchard and nursery tree growers. Agricultural disaster assistance is available to eligible producers and is limited to a cumulative $125,000 per person per year across all programs. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers the disaster assistance programs and has rushed efforts to get this assistance out to producers promptly, with sign-up set to begin on or before April 15.

Information from USDA can help clarify both the program rules and the documentation needed by producers to apply for assistance. The following links connect to a webpage or a fact sheet in PDF format.