Negotiations are heating up as the U.S. House and Senate agriculture committees begin debating the overdue farm bill this month.
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said this week that she expects the “mark-up” will begin in mid-May, and she's hopeful that her Livestock Disaster Protection Act will be included “in the underlying text of the farm bill.”
This legislation was passed last year, so she's confident of a similar result this time.
Funding for the livestock disaster programs accounts for less than 1 percent of the farm bill, she said.
She added that money spent on traditional farm programs is only one-fourth of 1 percent of the entire federal budget.
But for many livestock producers, it could mean a lot.
If the livestock protections are included, the federal government would implement permanent funding over the life of the farm bill to reimburse producers who lose animals because of adverse weather conditions.
The act would extend the Livestock indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFRP) and the Emergency Livestock Extension Program (ELAP), all of which were authorized in the 2008 farm bill but expired a year early before the farm bill was to end. They haven’t been extended into this year.
It would have been nice to have had them in place last year with the drought.
Noem's bill would provide retroactive coverage for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
“The risk our farmers, ranchers and all livestock owners in South Dakota take is undeniable,” Noem said. “The extreme weather we see across America – from drought to flood to freezes to the extreme heat – demonstrates the importance of providing a strong safety net. My bill gives some long-term certainty to our livestock owners so they'll keep on taking the risk to contribute to our state and nation's robust agriculture industry.”
The current farm bill extension expires Sept. 30. It has a history of being a bipartisan bill, but with the gridlock in Washington, who knows what will happen?
Noem has an ally in the fight from an organization that generally has not been a big supporter of her.
South Dakota's Farmers Union supports the effort, and the group’s president, Doug Sombke of the Brown County town of Conde, is a member of the organization's national legislative committee. He had praise for not only Noem, but also U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., for their work on trying to include the livestock protections as well as other safety-net measures in the farm bill this time around. Some of the items aren't necessarily politically popular nationally.
Sombke said, “Livestock producers desperately need this safety net when disaster strikes and their livelihoods are in jeopardy. Rep. Noem introduced a similar bill in the last Congress, and we're hopeful that, with her leadership, the provisions in the bill will be included in the next farm bill.”