By Michelle Bigelbach
The Courier 

USDA Offers Programs to Assist Drought Stricken Areas


Courtesy Photo / For the Courier

Cows looking for grass in Prairie County. This scene is very familiar to ranchers throughout Valley County due to the drought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated Valley County as a primary natural disaster due to losses and damages caused by the recent drought. Many Montana counties, including Valley County, have met the extreme drought (D3) criteria on the U.S. Drought Monitor, making farmers and ranchers in these areas eligible for a number of disaster assistance programs.

One such program is the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP). Eligible pasture types include long season small grains, native pasture, improved pasture, annual ryegrass or forage sorghum that is produced on dry-land acres and used for grazing. Eligible livestock include alpacas, beef cattle, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, reindeer or sheep that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland during the normal grazing period. The LFP application and supporting documentation for 2017 losses must be submitted by Jan. 30, 2018, however 2017 acreage reports are required to be filed for all eligible land no later than Nov. 15, 2017.

Livestock producers may also be eligible for assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), which covers the additional cost of transporting water to eligible livestock when the drought directly impacts water availability during the normal grazing period. The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) provides funding and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought. ECP is available by producer request and pending funding availability. As of July 13, Valley County farmers and ranchers have been approved for this program.

On July 11, USDA's Farm Service Agency announced that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has authorized emergency haying on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands beginning July 16, and lasting until Aug. 30. This program helps ranchers deal with poor forage conditions and helps provide feed for livestock in the drought-stricken areas. Prior approval from FSA is required before CRP Emergency Haying begins. Eligible CRP participants can hay their acreage for their own use or may grant another producer use of CRP land for haying purposes. There will be no CRP annual rental payment reductions assessed for acres hayed under this emergency authority.

All qualified farm operators are eligible for FSA's emergency (EM) loans, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. Compensation is also available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that results in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting.

Interested farmers may contact their local USDA service centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for any eligible programs. Additional information is also available online at


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