USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse has just returned from South Dakota where an early October blizzard killed upwards of 25-thousand head of cattle, “I don’t think anything prepared me or anyone for what actually happened out there,” Scuse says, “I’ve seen many disasters across the country as I’ve traveled for my job but to see the numbers of cattle that were lying dead in the field, to visit one of the burial pits and see the number of cattle in a pit and to talk with the ranchers out there and to hear their horror stories and just the numbers of losses – some of the producers have lost 60 to 70% of their herds. It’s going to be very, very difficult for them to recover.”
Scuse tells Brownfield Ag News the USDA is trying to come up with ways to help these ranchers but what they really need is for Congress to pass a full five-year Farm Bill with livestock disaster assistance restored. He says the Livestock Indemnity Program and other related assistance actually expired two years ago, “When they extended the Farm Bill last year they included those livestock disaster programs but there was no funding for them. So, the reality is, these programs haven’t existed for the last two years.”
In the meantime, Scuse says he’s looking at loan programs and ways to help ranchers in the short term and long term. He also announced a special signup for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program through November 15th to help producers dispose of livestock carcasses, replace destroyed fencing and rebuild conservation practices damaged by the storm.
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