Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), Senator John Thune (R-SD), and Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack calling for the Department to quickly release the rules for the agriculture disaster programs authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, specifically the Livestock Indemnity Program.

"South Dakota ranchers and farmers were hit with tremendous livestock loss this spring. Especially during this economically uncertain time, we need to get promised relief to producers as quickly as possible. It's been roughly a year since the Farm Bill passed, and it's time to get disaster program rules in place," Johnson said.

"The 2008 Farm Bill's disaster assistance programs are a safety net that livestock producers in South Dakota and across the nation can count on when disaster strikes," said Thune. "USDA must act quickly to finalize the rules for the programs Congress authorized. Ranchers in South Dakota frequently face challenging natural circumstances like the recent blizzards, and they deserve rapid action to help them meet our nation's food supply needs."

"I was pleased that the 2008 Farm Bill took the historic step of creating a disaster assistance program to provide greater certainty for producers when dealing with unexpected natural disasters," Rep. Herseth Sandlin said. "Given the great losses experienced by producers across our state, it is important that the rules for these programs are finalized soon so producers can begin seeing some relief."

This year, spring blizzards in western South Dakota have resulted in 15 to 20 percent livestock losses, with economic damages up to $25 million. The 2008 Farm Bill authorizes USDA to create rules for ranchers to apply for assistance through the Livestock Indemnity Program, but USDA has not yet released those rules.

A copy of the text of the letter follows:

Secretary Vilsack:

We write to urge the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to release rules for crucially important agriculture disaster programs which were enacted as part of the most recent Farm Bill reauthorization. Farmers and ranchers in the state of South Dakota were significantly hit with livestock losses this past spring, and these programs will provide critically important promised relief to many who are struggling with the financial impact of this loss.

As you know, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246) authorized a structured and fiscally responsible approach to disaster relief for America's farmers and ranchers. The programs were intended to provide reliable agricultural disaster assistance as farmers and ranchers work to preserve our national food security. Disaster programs authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill include the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Programs, and the Tree Assistance Program.

Of especially critical importance at this time is the Livestock Indemnity Program. Given the recent spring blizzards in the western part of the state, the total economic loss to South Dakota ranchers and farmers may be as high as $25 million, as reported in recent media articles and from farmer and rancher feedback to our offices. While we understand that the Federal Farm Service Agency is currently estimating the total livestock loss, the general estimate for livestock loss ranges as high as 15 percent to 20 percent in South Dakota. This type of loss can generate substantial cash flow issues for farmers and ranchers in production agriculture, especially during this economically challenging time.

We urge you to quickly release the rules for the agriculture disaster programs as authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, and thank you for your prompt attention to this important issue.