Producers who lost livestock in tornadoes that tore through parts of northeast Nebraska last month discovered the USDA is using data for calculating reimbursement that they say is outdated, and results in reduced payments of up to $330 per head.
In a letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, Nebraska's congressional delegation urged the Farm Service Agency to use current market values to more accurately reflects the intent of the 2014 farm bill, which reauthorized the Livestock Indemnity Program to provide relief for producers with livestock losses as a result of a natural disaster.
A copy of the letter follows:
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We write to request that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) revise its methodology for calculating payment amounts for the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP).
During the week of June 16, 2014, tornadoes devastated the town of Pilger, Nebraska and severely damaged crop and livestock operations in the surrounding area. Producers who had livestock killed by the tornadoes have sought relief from the LIP program that was recently extended by Congress with passage of the 2014 farm bill. But after producers read the payment schedule produced by FSA, they realize they will receive much less from FSA than they are entitled to receive under the statute.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 states that “payments to an eligible producer on a farm… shall be made at a rate of 75 percent of the market value of the applicable livestock on the day before the date of death of the livestock, as determined by the Secretary.” However, the rule implementing LIP states that “The LIP national payment rate for eligible livestock owners is based on 75 percent of the average fair market value of the applicable livestock as computed using nationwide prices for the previous calendar year unless some other price is approved by the Deputy Administrator.”
These are clearly not the same standard. We appreciate that FSA may have some constraints on availability of appropriate data, but it is clearly unfair to producers who expect relief based on the plain language of the law to then find out that the relief received will be significantly less than 75 percent of the market value of their livestock. For example, according to the LIP fact sheet published by FSA in April, the payment rate for feeder steers weighing 800 pounds or more is $1,149, but data from the Agriculture Marketing Service indicate that 75 percent of the average value of an 800-900 pound steer was approximately $1,278 the week before the tornadoes hit Pilger, a difference of $129 per head. Moreover, producers also experienced losses for cattle that were at their finished weight of approximately 1400 pounds. Using the data from the Agriculture Marketing Service, 75 percent of the average value for a finished steer was $1,479, for a difference of $330 per head.
Therefore, we request that you direct FSA to calculate relief for livestock producers based on market values that more accurately reflect the plain reading of the statute.