FEEDD Act would offer relief to livestock producers
Mother Nature hasn't been kind to farmers and ranchers in the Dakotas and the surrounding states. The year 2019 has been marked with extreme cold temperatures, record snowfall, excessive rain and flooding, multiple late spring blizzards in the peak of calving season and even tornadoes.
The above average rainfall may be good for promoting grass to grow in pastures, but it has delayed or even eliminated the possibility of getting crops planted this season. This leaves livestock producers in a bind as they wonder, where am I going to source feed and forages for the upcoming year?
To address this issue, U.S. Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.) introduced the bipartisan Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters Act, or FEEDD Act, that would provide producers with additional emergency flexibility to help alleviate feed shortages in a year with high levels of prevented planting because of extreme moisture or drought.
"Congress can't control the weather, but here is what we can control — we can pass and implement a commonsense farm bill that provides predictability," Johnson said. "We can work on gaining market access; we can provide disaster relief that creates a floor that producers can't fall below; and we can continue to make progress on deregulation."
Of those four priorities, the FEEDD Act would create an emergency waiver authority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow producers to graze, hay or chop a cover crop before the Nov. 1 cutoff in the event of a feed shortage due to excessive moisture, flood or drought.
USDA on June 20 announced that it would allow harvesting cover crops on prevented planting acres on Sept. 1 rather than Nov. 1, but that change was only for 2019.
Under the current Federal Crop Insurance Program, producers in this situation may receive a small indemnity but are prohibited from growing a cash commodity because of a missed window in the growing season. With this waiver provided by the FEEDD Act, producers would not have to take a further discount on their crop insurance.
Rep. Johnson said this simple fix would help ease feed shortages, enhance the farm safety net and improve soil health by promoting cover crops.
"This would help a lot, but is it realistic for it to be passed in time for fall 2019?" asked Tom Graber, a farmer and rancher from Freeman, S.D.
"The bill is currently being looked at by the House Agriculture Committee where it has the support of Congressman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), so that gives it a fighting chance," Johnson said. "We are going to get this done however we can."
Since the bill was introduced June 10, the FEEDD Act already has drummed up plenty of support.
"The bill makes logical sense for our diverse state and would allow important quality feedstuffs to be utilized," said Jason Frerichs, a farmer and rancher from Wilmot, S.D. "I like this bill because it should encourage more cover crops to be planted on prevented plant acres. It also should encourage more farm and ranch operations to keep as many of their cows instead of selling due to lack of potential feed."
These organizations were among those that had expressed their support for the program — American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Association of Conservation Districts, American Sheep Industry Association, Edge Dairy Cooperative, Midwest Dairy Coalition, Farm Credit Council, American Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers of America, Land O' Lakes, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Wildlife Federation.
"There are 10,000 bills introduced every year, and many of them are never intended to be policy, but serve more as a messaging tool; that's not the case with FEEDD," said Johnson. "We need to change this policy, and we need the bill to move forward. Livestock producers want to help themselves; they don't want another government program. However, there are serious concerns about where the feed for livestock will come from in the months to come. They need to be able to graze, hay and chop cover crops on those fields."