COLUMBIA, Mo. – Farmers who lost forages or livestock in the drought of 2012 should prepare to document those losses. The 2014 farm bill includes livestock disaster aid going back to 2011.

Nearly $1 billion in disaster aid will be spent, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, says Scott Brown, University of Missouri agricultural economist.

“Many Missouri livestock producers will be eligible for payments. Some payouts may be big,” Brown says.

“Regulations have not been released. While USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) prepares rules, farmers can prepare to make their cases.

“There are few details in the disaster section of the farm bill. Those details must be spelled out before farmers can file claims at their FSA office.”

University of Missouri Extension plans educational support to producers. “Livestock disaster aid is our first priority,” says Dave Baker, assistant dean for extension, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

MU Extension specialists will assist FSA staff in their educational efforts over the next year.

USDA says livestock farmers can sign a local list at FSA offices to schedule enrollment. In many cases, farmers who have not received federal crop assistance may not be on local office rolls.

“We’re trying to reach producers not normally involved in government programs,” says Brent Carpenter, MU Extension agricultural business specialist, Sedalia. “They may not be familiar with their local USDA office.”

Signing the list and giving contacts, including email, will speed the process. FSA will start sign-ups April 15.

“Being prepared will speed the process,” Brown says.

Those first in line are not likely to deplete available funds, Brown says. “From reading the farm bill, it appears there is no cap on funding.”

Farmers need not rush to their FSA offices to sign up for 2014 crop programs. “I don’t expect to see FSA rules on those until late fall,” Brown says.

After disaster aid, the next priority will be a new dairy margin protection program. For the interim, Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) was extended by Congress.

Long-delayed passage of a farm bill in Congress delayed rule-making. When the previous farm bill expired in 2011, disaster aid was lost. The new law makes disaster help retroactive.

“There are many stories, and rumors, out there,” Brown says. “But we can’t give real help until USDA has the detailed regulations.”

A team of state and regional MU Extension specialists will study the farm bill and rules to translate legal wording into farmer-friendly terms.

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