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Letter to U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran - Include Disaster Aid for Ranchers in 2013 Farm Bill

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) urged the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee to ensure that permanent livestock disaster assistance is included in the 2013 Farm Bill. Ranchers across the country need access to a strong and permanent safety net in light of the severe ongoing drought affecting much of Colorado, Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West. A robust livestock insurance program, Udall and Enzi argued in their bipartisan letter, will give ranchers and cattle operators the assurance they need to continue to boost local economies and feed the nation.

The permanent livestock disaster assistance would be funded through the more than $13.1 billion in deficit-reducing savings the 2013 Farm Bill includes.

"Drought cripples the agricultural sector and reverberates through the national economy in the form of higher food prices, broken farms and unemployed Americans," the senators wrote in the letter. "Permanent baseline funding for livestock disaster assistance programs will provide our ranchers and farmers the confidence they need to make business decisions that will enhance stability throughout the agricultural sector and help boost our economy. We know you are dedicated to the same goal and stand ready to support your efforts on behalf of America's cattle operators as you draft the 2013 Farm Bill."

Udall and Enzi, vocal and longtime supporters of America's cattle and livestock industries, noted in their letter that by the end of 2012, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had designated 2,245 counties in 39 states -- nearly three quarters of the United States -- as drought disaster areas.

At the start of 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 597 counties in 14 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts for 2013 indicate that drought conditions in the Rocky Mountain West are likely to continue for much of the year.

Read the full letter below:

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
Chairwoman
United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Washington D.C. 20510

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Ranking Member
United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Cochran:

We respectfully request that you include permanent baseline funding for livestock disaster assistance programs in the 2013 Farm Bill. By providing a permanent baseline for these programs, thousands of cattle operators across the country will gain access to a critical and stable safety net already available to many farmers.

As you know, disaster assistance for U.S. agriculture has a long history, and the creation of major crop insurance programs by Congress was an attempt to move away from ad hoc disaster funding and to provide a more stable, fiscally responsible and reliable safety net. Extending this idea to the cattle industry by providing a robust and permanent insurance program for livestock disaster assistance will give the cattle operators in our states the safety and security they need to conduct the business of feeding our country.

The summer of 2012 brought about one of the largest continental droughts in recent history. By the end of 2012, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had designated 2,245 counties in 39 states -- 71 percent of the country -- as drought disaster areas. The extreme drought and the absence of permanent livestock disaster provisions -- which expired in 2011 as part of the 2008 Farm Bill -- exacerbated the impact of rising feed prices and dry pasture. Unfortunately, this year does not look much better for our ranchers and farmers across the country.

Based on data from this winter's snowpack and precipitation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has predicted the drought will persist or intensify in major parts of the country over the coming months. Accordingly, on January 9, 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture announced it had designated 597 counties as disaster areas ahead of the 2013 crop season.

Drought cripples the agricultural sector and reverberates through the national economy in the form of higher food prices, broken farms and unemployed Americans. Permanent baseline funding for livestock disaster assistance programs will provide our ranchers and farmers the confidence they need to make business decisions that will enhance stability throughout the agricultural sector and help boost our economy. We know you are dedicated to the same goal and stand ready to support your efforts on behalf of America's cattle operators as you draft the 2013 Farm Bill.


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