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USDA provides 12-week progress update on disaster assistance

WASHINGTON -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack provided a 12-week progress report on U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster assistance programs July 10, announcing that USDA has processed 106,000 payments to farmers in 40 states across the coun...

WASHINGTON -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack provided a 12-week progress report on U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster assistance programs July 10, announcing that USDA has processed 106,000 payments to farmers in 40 states across the country who suffered livestock and grazing losses between October 2011 and passage of the 2014 farm bill.

"Farmers and ranchers who waited two and a half years for a farm bill are now getting some relief," Vilsack says. "We met the very ambitious goal to get these programs up and running in just 60 days."

A quick implementation of the disaster assistance programs has been a top priority for USDA.

FSA staff, as well as temporary employees hired to expedite the application process, have processed more than $1.2 billion in payments to qualifying farmers and ranchers. The first payments were sent out to farmers and ranchers within two weeks of enrollment. USDA estimated that roughly $2.5 billion would be provided in disaster relief to cover losses from October 2011 through September 2014. If those estimates prove accurate, it would mean nearly half of all disaster payments have already been provided.

While disaster relief is a critical lifeline that can prevent farmers and ranchers who do not have access to crop insurance from being wiped out by weather-related losses beyond their control, most producers only receive support equal to 60 percent of their actual losses.

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USDA disaster programs include:

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program and the Livestock Indemnity Program provide payments for grazing losses from drought and livestock deaths as a result of adverse weather.

The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) provides assistance for livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish losses from disease, weather, wildfires and colony collapse disorder, or for losses not covered under other disaster assistance programs.

The Tree Assistance Program provides financial assistance to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate trees, bushes and vines that were lost or damaged by natural disasters.

Producers affected by adverse weather should contact their FSA county office to make an appointment and learn if they are eligible for disaster assistance.

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