Blizzard Takes A Toll On Cattle

The United States Cattlemen'sAssociation (USCA) said today that winter storm Atlas, which struck thenorthern plains over the weekend of October 4th, has resulted in disastrouslivestock losses. The early winter storm began with rain in many areasfollowed by several feet of snow and high winds. Early estimates onlivestock loss in the storm's path range between 15 and 20 percent with somecounties reporting losses as high as 50 percent of herds or flocks. Crop loss estimates are not clear at this time, but some counties are reporting75 to 100 percent of grain crops destroyed. Producers should be aware ofthe need for thorough documentation and certification of all losses in theevent that federal assistance becomes available.

"This was a devastatingevent for many producers in eastern Montana, Wyoming, western Nebraska andthe Dakotas," noted Jon Wooster, USCA President, San Lucas,California. "Our hearts go out to those affected. USCA membersin the impacted region report that producers have come together to support oneanother through this difficult time. We have also received informationthat clean-up and recovery efforts are now underway with state and localemergency agencies engaged.

Wooster noted that because afarm bill has not been passed, no disaster assistance is available at thistime. "However, producers affected by this storm should be awarethat the Senate version of the farm bill and the House version allow forindemnity payments. Under both versions of LIP, the value of thelivestock lost would be calculated on the value of the animal and herd numbersthe day prior to the loss. Funding has been authorized for both versions,although when a farm bill is finally passed by Congress, LIP payments will notbe immediate," noted Wooster. "It will take time for theDepartment of Agriculture to prepare to record losses and Farm Service Agency(FSA) offices, which are currently closed due to the government shutdown, willneed to be reopened and ramped up for the paperwork process. In themeantime, producers should be thoroughly documenting their losses in order tosupport any disaster claims made related to this disaster."

Certification of losses mayinclude the following: second-party certification, rendering receipts, photosor videos of deceased livestock with a date stamp, calving or lambing recordsand purchase records verifying the number of livestock owned on the day priorto the storm.

USCA Executive Vice PresidentJess Peterson urged the U.S. House of Representatives to appoint members to thefarm bill conference committee as quickly as possible so that a five year farmbill can be passed by Congress. "The Atlas storm disasterunderscores the need for Congress to pass a farm bill," said Peterson. "Previous farm policy expired on October 1 and the government shutdownoccurred the same day leaving producers without federal resources in the faceof this catastrophe. As currently drafted, both the House and Senateversions of the farm bill will provide for retroactive payments for livestocklosses through several different programs. Congress should move forwardquickly in a bipartisan fashion to get long-term farm policy enacted."

USCA Director Danni Beer,who ranches near Keldron, SD, said there is little doubt the storm will have amulti-million dollar effect on the regional economy. "It will take time tocalculate the total impact of this storm," she said. "This wasan unusually early blizzard that struck when most producers still had cattle onfall pastures. The high winds and driving snow pushed cattle over fences,so many of us are still trying to locate our animals and bring them home. Just getting roads open and trails broken through the deep snow has been astruggle. A significant after-effect is the stress on cattle and sheepthat managed to survive and I suspect this will add to the storm's overallimpact. While this was a freak storm, we're an industry that's familiarwith what Mother Nature can hand out. It's disheartening that there's nofarm bill in place and that the reporting of losses has been complicated by thegovernment shutdown, but I'm confident that policy-makers are hearing fromtheir constituents and I'm hopeful that Congress will do the right thing."