Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

USDA Offers a Number of Funding Resources for Drought Disaster

At least one Sanpete County rancher is reporting a revenue dip of two-thirds of his average, due to this year’s severe drought conditions. And at least 15 total ranchers in Utah have applied for emergency livestock watering assistance.

With 99.5% of the state experiencing some form drought, and a little less than half categorized as “exceptional” or “severe,” the problem is pretty widespread. Utah’s streambeds are dry and many reservoirs depleted, following record low snow packs, the second hottest Summer ever, and driest year in history since records began in 1895.

In response, and under the recommendation of the Utah Drought Review and Reporting Committee, Governor Gary Herbert issued an executive order declaring this year’s conditions a state of emergency. Earlier this year, six individual counties declared drought emergencies, including San Juan, Carbon, Emery, Grand, Box Elder, and Wayne. 

The Governor’s declaration allows for farmers and ranchers to apply for much-needed financial relief. This is mainly through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) that oversees emergency assistance.

One of the main assistance programs is called Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). This program aids eligible producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish. This includes losses due to an eligible adverse weather condition, as determined by the Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

Earlier this year, ELAP totaled $34 million in support, helping agriculture producers through 2017 natural disasters in Florida, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Island, and through parts of the South, Southwest, and Great Plains.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed earlier this year, signaled an increase in assistance through ELAP. The Act amended the 2014 Farm Bill to enable USDA’s FSA to help producers without an annual funding cap. It also enabled FSA to pay ELAP applications as they are filed for 2018 and subsequent program years.

Prior to the Act, there was a combined program year payment limitation of $125,000 for ELAP, Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) per person or legal entity. Under the updated program, as amended by the Act, growers are eligible to be partly reimbursed for losses on up to 1,000 acres per program year, double the previous acreage limit of 500 acres.

The LFP assistance provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to a qualifying drought condition. While the LIP funding provides benefits to livestock owners or contract growers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by conditions that include weather.

FSA also has an Emergency Loan Program (EM) that provides loans to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding, or other natural disasters.

Finally, many farmers and ranchers purchase insurance on their own, or through FSA’s Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). The latter provides insurance for non-insured crops to protect against natural disasters that result in low-yields or crop losses.

Growers set up the insurance through a local agent that is on the Approved Insurance Providerlist. Because the program is federally overseen, rates are the same regardless of the agent.

Producers with operations impacted by natural disasters and diseases in 2018 are encouraged to contact their local USDA service centerto apply for assistance through ELAP, LIP, LFP, EM, and NAP.