Important Disaster Assistance Programs Lapsed; Farmers Encouraged to Keep Records

As the nation responds to one of the worst droughts in decades, it is important to note that a series of the important disaster assistance programs authorized by the 2008 farm bill expired on September 30, 2011, at the end of the 2011 fiscal year. If a farmer downloads the 2-page USDA fact sheet entitled “Emergency Programs Administered by the Farm Service Agency,” they will find that all five of the programs on the first page; the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payment Program (SURE), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), expired last year. In a drought, these programs are critically important.  These programs cover damages for farmers who have no other assistance available other than loans.  Legislation that would have re-funded LIP and LFP did not pass Congress before the recess.  SURE and ELAP were not included in the legislation at all.  SURE is one of few programs that address the needs of specialty crop farmers who may not have access to crop insurance. While these programs do not have current funding, we encourage farmers to be familiar with the program and keep records of their losses as though the programs were current.  In past disasters, assistance programs have been approved as long as three years after the disaster.  If a farmer does not keep the appropriate documentation, they will not be eligible for benefits when they are approved.