The Montana Farm Bureau Federation and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association are giving kudos to Mike Foster, Montana State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, for his hard work supporting Montana’s ranchers who have been unsuccessful in working with the FSA Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) regarding death loss of livestock from October 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018. Many ranchers across Montana faced not just one devastating “weather event” but an entire calving season (January through mid-April) of catastrophic weather which resulted in an unprecedented loss of calves and cows. Many ranchers were turned down by the FSA with the governmental organization noting they did not “meet the weather criteria.”
Mike Foster sent a letter to William Beam, deputy administrator of farm programs, U.S Department of Agriculture, citing his disappointment that the agency turned down a request for a waiver.
“We submitted our waiver request as a good faith effort to assist our producers and county offices in the processing of our LIP applications and accurately reflects the huge challenge that producers faced because severe winter weather conditions from Oct 30, 2017 through April 30, 2018 were unrelenting across the state. We provided nearly 20 attachments demonstrating the severity and unrelenting nature of that winter.”
Montana Farm Bureau President Hans McPherson noted, “Farm Bureau truly wants to thank Mike Foster for stepping up to the plate for ranchers in Montana. He has talked to many ranchers and is as frustrated as they are regarding the fact that the USDA, despite their mantra that they are ‘here to help’ have been uncooperative in providing much-needed assistance to our family ranchers. The USDA needs to realize this past winter/calving season in many cases provided an impossibility to care for calves and cows for even the most dedicated cattle producer. The endless snow, bitter cold and deep mud didn’t happen in three days but continued over months, so sadly, did not match the LIP criteria. That criteria needs to be changed.”
USCA Secretary Whitney Klasna added, “The farm bill livestock disaster programs are intended to assist livestock producers during severe weather elements. Montana had one of the worst winter events in recent history, and yet compared to losses incurred, very little support has actually been allocated via Farm Bill programs. We appreciate Mike Foster taking this issue head on. His efforts combined with the support from Senator Jon Tester, Senator Steve Daines and Representative Greg Gianforte is making an impact and we thank them for their work. Livestock producers from across the state need to pass along their input and keep the heat on to put this cold event behind us.”
Senator Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte sent a letter to the USDA, noting, “Livestock loss claims were estimated to be 11,000 calves, more than 1500 adult bulls and cows and more than 1000 other livestock animals,” said the Congressmen. “These are the only the claims filed; many others have found the LIP program very difficult to successfully participate in and did not file claims. The LIP is designed to help with such losses and we ask you reconsider your position regarding the request to consider this entire winter as a qualifying event.”
Senator Tester penned a letter to Richard Fordyce, FSA Administrator, noting how disappointed he was that FSA was denying the request to treat October 1, 2017 – April 30, 2018, as one eligible adverse event under the Livestock Indemnity Program.
“The unprecedented winter conditions directly caused thousands of livestock losses and forced producers to apply for relief through the LIP,” Tester explained in his letter. “LIP is a vital program when Mother Nature strikes and livestock producers experience excessive loss. While it is critically important to administer LIP fairly and accurately, some of the qualifying requirements can be impossible for adverse-weather affected producers to meet. Please reconsider the decision to disapprove the Montana FSA request to treat last winter as one adverse weather event.”