Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  The President today signed into law a bill authored by Senator John Thune (S.1716), correcting a potentially devastating mistake in the $3 billion agriculture disaster aid package that passed Congress in May. The Senate passed Senator Thune's bill on July 27th and the House passed it on July 30th.

"Congress clearly intended disaster assistance to be available to crop and livestock producers who suffered devastating losses due to natural disasters in 2005 and 2006," said Thune.

The assistance provided by Congress includes payments for livestock losses under the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and compensation for grazing and other losses under the Livestock Compensation Program (LCP).

"This correction to the disaster relief bill is critically important," said Thune. "I am pleased Congress recognized the urgency in passing my legislation and President Bush quickly signed this important measure into law."

Without Thune's bill, as many as 90 percent of the livestock and forage producers who suffered losses would have been ineligible for the assistance Congress intended for them to receive. Earlier this summer, the Department of Agriculture's Office of General Counsel interpreted language in section 9012 of the disaster legislation to mean that in order to be eligible for the LIP, or the LCP, a producer must have participated in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), or a federal crop insurance pilot program during the year LIP or LCP assistance is requested. According to USDA, nationwide participation in NAP during the required years was less than 13 percent. The reason the participation rate in NAP is so low is because payments for losses generally amount to only $1 or $2 per acre.

"If disaster benefits had been limited to only those livestock producers who obtained NAP or pilot crop insurance policies for the year they request disaster assistance, the vast majority of livestock producers across the country with 2005 and 2006 losses would have been ineligible for disaster assistance," said Thune. "I found that unacceptable. It is not sound policy to exclude livestock and forage producers from disaster assistance because they chose not to participate in what many consider an ineffective program."

"SDCA thanks Senator Thune for his hard work on behalf of South Dakota's cattlemen. Senator Thune's work to help producers recover a portion of their losses due to natural disasters will help not only producers, but everyone in South Dakota who is economically reliant on agriculture. This illustrates the importance of the relationship between livestock producers and our elected officials," said Scott Jones, South Dakota Cattlemen's Association President.

"As President Bush signs this legislation, South Dakota Farmers Union members commend Senator Thune for seeing this oversight in the disaster aid package and correcting it. We are pleased that the government is allowing up to 90 percent of our livestock producers who have no need for crop insurance on their ranch to receive disaster aid. Again, this brings to light the need for a permanent disaster title in the next farm bill, which the South Dakota Farmers Union and Senator Thune will continue to advocate in the upcoming debates regarding this legislation," said Doug Sombke, President of the South Dakota Farmers Union.

"Over the past few years, drought conditions and other natural disasters have financially strained tens of thousands of agriculture producers across South Dakota and the country. Congress responded to the needs of America's producers by enacting emergency disaster assistance for our farm and ranch families. My legislation ensures that forage and livestock producers in need of assistance due to 2005 and 2006 natural disasters are not denied the assistance they are entitled to receive," said Thune. "I will continue working with the USDA to ensure disaster assistance is not further delayed."

USDA plans to issue disaster payments to agriculture and livestock producers this fall.