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Published April 18, 2014, 03:58 PM

Strong SD response to start of livestock disaster aid sign-up

The head of Farm Service Agency’s South Dakota office is optimistic that hard-hit ranchers will soon begin receiving federal disaster assistance.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

The head of Farm Service Agency’s South Dakota office is optimistic that hard-hit ranchers will soon begin receiving federal disaster assistance.

“I would suspect that shortly after the first week of May, we should be able to see some checks being cut and ranchers and producers receiving their money,” says Craig Schaunaman, state executive director.

Tuesday, April 15, was the first day that livestock producers could sign up for federal disaster assistance programs reestablished and strengthened by the 2014 farm bill.

The programs are important to many cattle producers nationwide, but particularly ones in South Dakota. The state was hit by drought in 2012 and a freak October 2013 blizzard, and some South Dakota cattle producers have said they won’t recover for years.

As expected, “We’ve had just a tremendous amount of response” to the disaster aid sign-up so far, Schaunaman says.

The FSA encouraged cattle producers to schedule appointments at their county FSA offices, and many ranchers have done so, he says.

“One county office is scheduled out through the first week of June, and some are scheduled into the second week of May,” he says.

Also as expected, the first week “was the toughest week. Everything’s new with the (disaster assistance program) software and program technicians,” Schaunaman says, noting that the FSA is administering three separate disaster aid programs.

The South Dakota FSA worked in advance with producers to help them understand how the application process will work, he says.

Once a rancher signs up for assistance and completes his or her application, the application will be reviewed by the FSA county committee. County committee meetings already are being scheduled for the first week of May, and additional meetings probably will be scheduled every two weeks after that, he says.

Schaunaman, 54, says he ranched and farmed his entire life, beginning in his present position in 2009.

Several factors, including the magnitude of the 2012 drought and widespread attention on the October 2013, caused the federal government to fast-track the livestock disaster programs, he says.

An article in the April 28 issue of Agweek will take a longer look at regional response to the start of the livestock disaster aid sign-up.

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