Livestock producers who now operate without disaster assistance would be covered under a bill introduced on Wednesday.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., comes as farmers and ranchers across South Dakota suffer through drought and recent bouts of snow and ice.

Noem, in a meeting with the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said the bill was long overdue but conceded it will be challenging to get funding for it amid efforts to cut spending in Congress. “It doesn’t do us any good if we don’t get the funding,” she told them.

In a statement later, Noem said the extreme weather “demonstrates the importance of providing a strong safety net. The risk our farmers, ranchers and all livestock owners in South Dakota take is undeniable,” she said.

The USDA was given the authority to operate livestock disaster assistance programs in the 2008 Farm Bill, but that expired Sept. 30, 2011. Insurance for crop farmers such as corn and soybeans was not affected and remains it place.

Noem’s bill would extend the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Program and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill for five years, as well as retroactive coverage for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

Noem introduced similar legislation a year ago, which was later merged into the farm bill that stalled in Congress. The disaster assistance measure likely will be included in the farm bill again this year. Noem said a markup on the farm bill is expected in late May.

“Right now we have nothing,” Todd Wilkinson, a vice president with the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said in an interview after meeting with Noem. “If you have a disaster you have a disaster. You have no way to recover from that.”


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