A Rocky Boy rancher testified in Washington Thursday about the need for Congress to give some disaster assistance to livestock producers.
“We’ve had it all. We had the blizzard of 2010-2011 in which we lost numerous heads of livestock, and that following spring we had unprecedented rainfall events that actually completely changed the landscape of our ranch and neighboring ranches,” LaSalle testified before the Senate Agricultural Committee. “So we went from one extreme to the other within last year, and now we are at the tail end of a nationwide drought.
“Without permanency, we just don’t have anything to take to the bank to secure the operating loans we need to stay in business,” LaSalle added.
LaSalle, who raises black Angus cattle on his family ranch in the Bear Paw Mountains, testified at the invitation of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a member of the committee.
LaSalle is the president of the Rocky Boys Cattlemen’s Association and serves on the board of directors for the Montana Stockgrowers Association.
Baucus, one of the lead crafters of the 2008 Farm Bill and the bill that passed the Senate last year — but was not taken up by the House of Representatives — has been pushing for months for Congress to approve some kind of livestock disaster aid.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., a Big Sandy farmer himself, also has been vocal on the need to pass a Farm Bill and ensure disaster aid.
Baucus introduced a bill the first week of the new Congress this year to provide immediate assistance to Montana ranchers recovering from record drought by extending disaster programs that expired in 2011 and backfilling them to cover 2012 losses. His press release on LaSalle’s testimony said the senator also is working to make the disaster programs permanent so ranchers have a reliable system they can count on from year to year.
“Agriculture is the number one industry in Montana, supporting one-in-five jobs, so it’s critical that we get some more sanity and consistency back in our disaster programs,” Baucus told the Senate committee. “Permanent disaster programs are two-times more efficient than providing ad hoc support here and there — they are a smarter use of taxpayer dollars and they provide certainty our ranchers can count on. We can’t control the weather, but we have to do our part to create stability our ranchers deserve.”
Baucus first created the livestock disaster program in the 2008 Farm Bill, his release said. Before that, Congress provided disaster assistance to ranchers on an ad hoc basis only.
The programs created in 2008 expired in 2011.
In the 2012 Senate Farm Bill, Baucus worked to extend the programs permanently and backfilled them to cover 2012 losses.
After the House did not bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote, Congress passed a temporary extension of the Farm Bill that did not include any livestock disaster support.As a result, for the past year and a half, Montana ranchers have been faced with record drought with nowhere to turn for help, Baucus’ release said.
The release lists several actions the senator has take to try to provide livestock disaster assistance:
• Baucus made the livestock programs permanent and backfilled them in the Senate Farm Bill.
• Baucus, along with Tester and Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, introduced a stand-alone disaster bill in the last Congress.
• Baucus tried to attach disaster assistance as an amendment to the Hurricane Sandy package. It was blocked by a procedural motion.
• Baucus reintroduced his stand-alone bill the first week of the new Congress.
• Baucus wrote a letter to congressional appropriations leaders urging them to fund the programs in the appropriations process.
• Baucus plans to work to make the livestock programs permanent as Congress works to pass a long-term Farm Bill again this year.