Sen. Moran, Rep. Marshall Introduce Legislation to Aide Farmers and Ranchers Impacted by Natural Disasters
Legislation inspired by experiences of Clark County, Kan., and surrounding communities after March wildfires
Nov 02 2017
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and U.S. Representative Roger Marshall (KS-01) today introduced legislation to improve and reform livestock disaster programs Kansas farmers and ranchers rely on in times of natural disaster. The legislation includes four bills to make changes to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) based on Kansas farmers’ and ranchers’ feedback following southwest Kansas wildfires earlier this year, the Anderson Creek fire and many other recent natural disasters.
“This spring, Kansas was devastated by fires and tornadoes that swept across the plains,” said Sen. Moran. “I was not surprised that Kansans worked together as friends and neighbors to overcome many of the challenges they faced. However, over the months that followed, I spoke with a number of farmers and ranchers regarding the difficulties they faced at the federal level following devastating fires. This legislation, based on feedback from Kansans, will provide greater financial assistance and ease the burden on farmers and ranchers who feed the nation, even during disastrous times. The changes to the LIP and ECP programs in this legislation will make certain that the FSA resources get to agriculture producers in need quickly and efficiently. I’m pleased to work with Rep. Marshall on this vital legislation for our farmers and ranchers to help them to recover and rebuild during devastating times.”
"After several visits to survey the fire damage in southwest Kansas, I came away inspired by the resilience of the folks who were impacted,” said Rep. Marshall. “I also left frustrated by the way red tape and outdated regulations can interfere with a recovery. Through the experience of two wildfires in two years, we have found several areas where adjustments to programs would improve their delivery. These four bills represent a much-needed step toward making disaster programs more responsive to producers.”
“The ranching community appreciates the support of Senator Moran and Representative Marshall throughout the response and recovery from the spring wildfires,” said Kansas Livestock Association President David Clawson, a rancher from Englewood. “This legislation represents a common-sense approach to disaster program shortcomings reported by cattle producers and landowners. These changes will provide more effective assistance to those affected by future disasters.”
The first of the four bills, S. 2050, would allow for LIP partial payments. The second, S. 2053, would double the LIP payment limit. The third, S. 2054, would create an ECP fencing option to allow for upfront payments. The fourth bill, S. 2049, would raise the ECP payment limit.
S. 2050 would allow producers to receive a partial payment through the LIP program in the event livestock were severely injured, but still salvageable. Producers would be able to receive disaster payments for the difference between what a producer would receive at a processing facility versus the LIP payment for the same animal.
S. 2053 would double the LIP payment limit in an effort to make certain that ranchers who lose hundreds of their cattle in one disaster can have a chance at recovery. The current LIP payment limit covers about 70 cow-calf pairs. Several individual operations in Kansas lost over 500 head of cattle during the southwest Kansas fires this year. The increased payment limit would also apply to the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP).
A significant portion of ECP payments issued to farmers and ranchers following disasters go toward repairing and replacing damaged or destroyed fences. Construction requires large upfront costs for material and labor, but the current design of the ECP slows down the payment process. During the Anderson Creek fire, for example, it took more than a year in most cases for landowners to receive ECP payments. S. 2054 would give the USDA the authority to offer landowners the option to be paid upfront the fair market value of the portion of the fence that the USDA approves to be built or repaired under ECP requirements.
S. 2049 would raise the ECP payment limits to better accommodate the costs of rebuilding fences. Natural disasters like fires can damage hundreds of miles of fence at a time, as they did during the Clark County fires. This bill would match the ECP payment limit to the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP). As fences cost approximately $10,000 per mile to rebuild, the current ECP limit covers approximately 26 miles of fence at 75 percent cost-share, creating a significant gap between the fence covered by the ECP and the fence needed. This legislation would narrow that gap.
In March, Sen. Moran met with USDA then-Acting Secretary Michael Young to request urgent FSA payments through the LIP and ECP programs, among others, and inquire about program payment limits legal entity definition. He continues to urge USDA to use its existing authority to administer ECP with maximum flexibility, specifically in regard to NRCS fencing specifications. He also addressed the impact of the Clark County fires in a speech on the Senate floor.
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