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Letter to Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Cochran - Funding of Critical Livestock Programs Ahead of Predicted Drought


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill has signed on to a bipartisan effort to ensure that livestock programs critical to Missouri's ranchers will be permanently authorized and funded.

McCaskill, joined by several of her colleagues, sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee concerning livestock disaster assistance programs, that, despite being reauthorized for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, have not received resources.

"Between the U.S. House's inability to pass a Farm Bill and the worst drought in years, Missouri's farmers and ranchers have faced more than their share of hardship and uncertainty," McCaskill said. "I'm going to keep working as hard as I know how to ensure that they can responsibly plan for the future, and support this critical part of our economy."

The Livestock Indemnity Program, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, Farm-Raised Fish Program, and Livestock Forage Disaster Program are designed to provide resources for farmers and ranchers who incur livestock deaths due to extreme weather events, such as drought, floods, and tornadoes.

"...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," the letter reads.

Last year, McCaskill helped pass a bipartisan Farm Bill in the Senate to reauthorize essential livestock disaster assistance programs, support agriculture jobs, strengthen resources for family farms and ranches, and reduce the national deficit by more than $23 billion. The Farm Bill-approved with a strong bipartisan vote of 64-35-also provided crucial resources that would allow Missouri's crop producers to manage risk and create new programs that help Missouri's dairy farmers cope with high costs. It never received a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The full text of McCaskill's bipartisan letter appears below:

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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