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Funding cap lifted on federal livestock disaster assistance

Congress has passed legislation raising funding for livestock disaster programs making more money available for ranchers affected by the 2017 drought. Above, cattle are seen at Kist Livestock in Mandan, N.D., on Tuesday, April 10. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

MANDAN, N.D.—Thanks to the latest federal budget legislation, more money is available to livestock producers affected by natural disaster, including North Dakota ranchers hurt by the 2017 drought.

As part of the budget bill, Congress voted to eliminate the funding cap for the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program. Prior to the budget act, funding for ELAP was limited to $20 million.

However, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency calculations were showing demand of $40 million and growing, according to the office of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

To ensure the cap was not exceeded, all applications filed by producers were being compiled on a national basis, said Lindsey Abentroth, outreach coordinator for the North Dakota state office of the Farm Service Agency.

If total application dollars had exceeded the $20 million cap, amounts received by all producers would have been uniformly reduced to keep them below the cap, Abentroth said.

"With the removal of the cap, producers should experience a shorter turnaround time from application to payment," she said.

"Farmers, ranchers and honeybee producers now have the certainty that, if they qualify for ELAP assistance, they'll get the support they need to recover during challenging times," Heitkamp said in a statement.

FSA will begin paying producers with 2017 ELAP claims immediately and no further action is needed from producers. For any future claims, FSA will pay ELAP applications as they are filed.

"We worked hard to secure additional ELAP funding for our farmers and ranchers who were affected by last year's drought," Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said.

A majority of the 2017 ELAP applications submitted for drought were for transportation assistance associated with hauling water to livestock, though the exact number of ELAP applications filed for drought assistance is not readily available.

ELAP covers losses not covered by other USDA disaster assistance programs. such as the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, which covers the loss of grazing land due to drought, and the Livestock Indemnity Program for higher than average livestock deaths caused by weather.