Tester Announces $750 Million in Disaster Relief for Ranchers Impacted by Drought or Wildfire

Funding a part of $10 billion secured by Tester for ag producers impacted by disasters

As a part of his efforts to support livestock producers across the country, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that $750 million in disaster relief for ranchers impacted by drought or wildfire in 2021 will soon begin receiving relief payments. In this phase one of funding, livestock producers who have approved applications through the 2021 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for forage losses will receive relief compensation for increases in supplemental feed costs in 2021 through the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) new Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP).

Tester was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, which included this funding as a part of $10 billion in assistance to agricultural producers impacted by wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, winter storms, and other eligible disasters during 2020-2021.

“Ranchers were hit hard by drought and fires this year, cutting into their bottom lines and putting them at risk of losing their land and livelihoods,” said Tester. “I’m proud to have voted for this critical relief that is a lifeline to the producers who are the backbone of our rural communities, economy, and way of life. I’m going to keep pushing hard for USDA to get this funding out the door and into the hands of ranchers as quickly as possible.”

To be eligible for an ELRP payment under phase one of program delivery, livestock producers must have suffered gazing losses in a county rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as having a D2 (severe drought) for eight consecutive weeks or a D3 (extreme drought) or higher level of drought intensity during the 2021 calendar year, and have applied and been approved for 2021 LFP. Additionally, producers whose permitted grazing on federally managed lands was disallowed due to wildfire are also eligible for ELRP payments, if they applied and were approved for 2021 LFP.

To further expedite payments to eligible livestock producers, determine eligibility, and calculate an ELRP phase one payment, FSA will utilize livestock inventories and drought-affected forage acreage or restricted animal units and grazing days due to wildfire already reported by the producer when they submitted a 2021 CCC-853, Livestock Forage Disaster Program Application form.

Phase one ELRP payments will be equal to the eligible livestock producer’s gross 2021 LFP calculated payment multiplied by a payment percentage, to reach a reasonable approximation of increased supplemental feed costs for eligible livestock producers in 2021.

As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has long been an advocate for increased market transparency and more competitive practices for Montana producers and consumers. This week, he introduced the Cattle Price Transparency and Discovery Act, which would establish minimums for negotiated sales of cattle and require clear reporting of marketing contracts. Last year he introduced his bipartisan American Beef Labeling Act, which would ensure that only beef raised in the United States is labeled as a product of the USA. Last year he also introduced his bipartisan Meatpacking Special Investigator Act which will create a new dedicated office within the Department of Agriculture’s Packers and Stockyards Division, addressing anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries.