Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse Tuesday met with ranchers in Rapid City, S.D., to announce availability of conservation funding following the early October blizzard that wiped out thousands of cattle.
"This blizzard impacted lives and livelihoods across the region and USDA is committed to doing all we can to help ranchers during this difficult time," Scuse said, though he added that without a farm bill, USDA's means to help are limited.
"This disaster is a reminder of the unpredictable nature of agriculture, and the need for a strong farm safety net that would be provided by a new farm bill," he noted.
USDA is offering a special signup through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help South Dakota producers address the impacts of the storm.
Scuse also encouraged producers to submit forms to the Farm Service Agency to document their losses with the hope that Congress will quickly pass a Farm Bill to reauthorize the livestock disaster assistance programs that have expired.
The EQIP signup runs through November 15th, 2013. EQIP assistance will help producers dispose of livestock carcasses, replace destroyed fencing, and rebuild shelterbelts and other conservation practices that were damaged by the storm. USDA will begin providing assistance to producers as soon as this week.
Scuse noted that NRCS is working in partnership with the State of South Dakota to provide the greatest possible amount of assistance. NRCS is entering into an agreement with the state to share in the cost of deploying additional state and local personnel into the field to help producers perform impact assessments on their operations and identify sites for carcass disposal. This additional assistance will also help perform outreach for the EQIP signup and support producers with their applications. NRCS is also providing the state government with technical information, such as soils information and technical practice standards, and the state is using this information to work directly with agricultural partners and individual producers to provide assistance.