February 17, 2006
Ag groups request assistance
A letter signed by the presidents of the Texas Farm Bureau, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser's Association, the Texas Forestry Association, and the chairman of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, and number of other Texas agriculture associations, and sent to the Texas Congressional delegation, offers a number of recommendations for drought relief compiled at the close of the recent Drought Summit in San Antonio. Those recommendations include the following:
1) Special drought assistance funding should be from new money, not from current Farm Program funds. The drought situation is a major catastrophe that threatens the livelihoods of thousands of farm and ranch families, and deserves special consideration.
2) A Crop Disaster Program that would allow any producer who is paid an indemnity from either crop insurance or Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) to receive an additional 30 percent on top of their payment. For every $100 of indemnity paid, the producer would receive an additional $30. The total payment of indemnity, Hurricane Indemnity Payment (HIP), and any money received from harvesting the crop should not exceed 95 percent of the value of the crop had there not been a loss.
This assistance is similar to that announced by USDA for hurricane assistance.
Insurance claims on all fall-seeded crops should be processed and acreage released in a timely manner that would allow planting of an alternate crop. This would allow winter planted crops that did not emerge, or that have a poor stand, to be grazed or hayed in the spring and summer. This will allow producers to make planting preparations if they obtain adequate moisture and choose to plant spring crops.
The same should apply for spring-seeded crops if the drought continues. Spring-seeded crops should be released at the earliest planting deadline date, if conditions prevent the establishment of a favorable plant population stand. If adequate moisture is not present at planting time, preventive planting should be allowed and paid at the planted for harvest level. Producers have, in most cases, exceptionally large investments in this crop due to high seed, fertilizer and fuel costs in preparing the land for planting. Other insurance issues that need to be resolved are: a) losses caused by wildlife damages, including vegetables, should be an insurable cause of loss without undue burden on the producer; b) broadcast wheat should be treated the same as drilled wheat; c) NAP insurance claims should be expedited for payment; and d) 2005 crop corn claims due to aflatoxin should be paid as soon as possible.
3) Institute an emergency Livestock Assistance Program for 2005-06, continuing until the drought subsides. This would assist producers in counties that have suffered at least three consecutive months' loss of available grazing as a result of drought. Those livestock producers who have to sell their animals because of drought should also be eligible. Such a program should be designed to meet the needs of stocker cattle operators. Consideration should also be given to providing supplemental feed assistance for wildlife. A program should be developed to assist livestock producers in building storage facilities for hay and other feed products for livestock on their own property. Consideration should be given to financial assistance for shipping of feedstuffs for livestock operations, including dairies.
4) Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funds should be available to assist livestock producers to rebuild exterior fences destroyed by fire (in addition to interior fences) and to modify exterior and interior fences to facilitate pronghorn antelope and other animal movement and escape. In addition, ECP funds should be used to increase water distribution within pastures and improve cross fencing to enhance grazing management, forage, and water availability for livestock and wildlife.
An emergency watershed program should be funded to rehabilitate watersheds and streams, similar to that developed for the hurricane impacted areas.
5) Continue emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres until the drought subsides. Allow hay to be sold and moved across state lines to drought affected areas without reduction in CRP payments to producers.
6) Assistance should be made available to silviculture producers for losses, including seedling replacements and the cost of replanting. Producers need reforestation assistance to non-industrial private landowners, technical assistance to deliver any planting programs, and nursery assistance to supply seedlings.
7) Capital gains should not be applied on the forced sale of livestock due to drought, with an agreement that producers will repurchase livestock within an appropriate time frame after the drought is over.
8) Request special consideration for bank borrowers who have been "good pays" by allowing loans to be re-amortized without going through the paperwork and red-tape process normally required under the procedure for distressed loan restructuring.
9) Consideration of a Supplemental Direct Payment to compensate producers for increased energy costs.
10) For the longer term, we encourage an extended assessment of long term drought effects of forage and tree crops. Additionally, we encourage the Congress and Administration to look at possibilities for water development, including desalinization.