August 25, 2014

Wolf Predation And Livestock Loss Compensation

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Threats to livestock operations have been compounded in recent years by the increased presence of federally reintroduced wolves and wildfires raging across limited grazing land.  While certainly not a cure all, Congress included programs in the enacted Farm Bill to help producers recover from these and other losses. 

The federal government is responsible for the reintroduction of wolves in Idaho, and thus responsible for the impacts of this reintroduction.  In the 2013 Idaho Wolf Monitoring Progress Report, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Nez Perce Tribe indicate that while not all wolf packs in Idaho are presumed to be documented, estimates indicated there were 659 wolves in Idaho at the end of 2013.  Wolves have been responsible for livestock deaths throughout Idaho.  In 2013 alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services responded to hundreds of calls of reported wolf depredation.  In many of those cases, sheep and cattle losses were confirmed.         

As wolf attacks put pressure on livestock operations, range management policies and reduced grazing and timber harvest have increased fuel loads on federal land.  This has translated into increased fire threats and more intense fires in terms of force and acreage burned.  So far this year, more than 85,000 acresin Idaho have burned.  Wildfires increase the strain on livestock operations with limited grazing land due to recent drought conditions and mounting limitations on federal land use.  The federal government must step forward and help address damages triggered by the impacts of federal policy. 

Last fall, members of the Idaho congressional delegation raised concern about the prolonged drought and catastrophic wildfire damage impacting crops, livestock and the well-being of too many Idahoans.  We pressed House and Senate leadership to help meet the federal responsibility by extending disaster assistance programs to assist with recovery.

The enacted 2014 Farm Bill provides needed assistance by making permanent the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and making coverage for eligible losses retroactive to October 1, 2011, when the programs expired.  LIP provides assistance to producers for excess livestock deaths due to adverse weather or attacks by animals, including wolves, reintroduced by the federal government or protected by federal law.  LFP provides compensation to eligible producers who suffered grazing losses due to qualifying drought or fire. 

Interested producers are encouraged to contact their local USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA) office for details.  A list of eligible livestock and program details can be accessed through the USDA website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=diap&topic=landing.  Good records and documentation of losses, if possible, are beneficial.  

The federal government has a responsibility to assist with the impacts of damages triggered by federal lands policy and predator reintroduction.  These programs provided through the Farm Bill are a step in the right direction for affected Idahoans and can help producers bounce back after facing significant setbacks.     

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