Ranchers Talk with Hoeven, Stress Need for Hay

Strong support for crop insurance in the 2018 Farm Bill and getting hay or forage to ranchers to preserve cattle herds are two of the most pressing priorities Sen. John Hoeven has heard from farmers and ranchers recently.

The Republican senator has been hosting ag discussion groups, similar to those his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, has been hosting. Hoeven’s most recent was at Stockman’s Livestock Exchange in Dickinson, where he was joined by North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

The two outlined a number of programs available to help ranchers get forage and feed, including the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, which offers drought payments to ranchers in counties in extreme or exceptional drought. Counties in lower categories of drought are eligible after eight consecutive weeks of drought.

The exact payment depends on factors such as the length and intensity of the drought, as well as estimates of monthly forage costs. Livestock producers can get between $17 to $84 per head of cattle or, from $1.40 to $28 per acre toward the cost of forage or feed for their livestock.

“That is actually a payment they can get,” Hoeven said. “They can go through their county agent or NDSU extension and get help to buy feed or forage for their animals.”

That’s a very important component, Hoeven believes, toward helping preserve cattle herds and keep ranchers in business. Otherwise, some would sell out their herd and might never be able to come back.

A big problem, however, on top of the increased cost of hay right now, is the additional cost of transporting it. Hoeven hopes the administration will allow the payments to be used for transportation costs in cases where hay has been donated.

“That way we can leverage those dollars and make them go further,” Hoeven said.

That would also marry well with an upcoming hay lottery North Dakota is hosting for farmers and ranchers in the Dakotas and Montana. The three-state relief effort was made possible by Michigan-based Ag Community Relief, which has a large-scale convoy of hay headed to the region.

Livestock producers in counties classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in severe, extreme or exceptional drought have until Aug. 31 to sign up for the lottery, which is online at The drawing will be early September for two age categories, age 35 and under and age 36 and up.

Anyone wishing to contribute hay or willing to provide trucking services can contact North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s drought hotline at 701-425-8454. Questions about the hay lottery can be directed to 701-328-4764.

Another key point Hoeven has been hearing often, is ensuring that those who have crops can go ahead and put animals to feed on the crop and still get their crop insurance payments.

“That is where we work with RMA to have adjusters out there, to ensure they can use those crops for feed value and collect crop insurance,” Hoeven said.

Livestock producers would also like to see more money to install water sources, whether through federal or state programs.

“Those are some of the main things we got as feedback from ranchers that they thought would help them the most,” Hoeven said.

Farm Bill talk has also been on the minds of many of the state’s farmers and ranchers. Topping that list, he said, is strong crop insurance.

“I think you will hear that again and again,” Hoeven said. “They want to keep that support for crop insurance. They are really going to need it this year, and that cuts across both farmers and ranchers. It’s a No. 1 priority.”

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would cut crop insurance, and there are perennial challenges to it on the Senate floor from groups like Heritage Foundation. Hoeven believes it will be strong in committee against such challenges.

Hoeven does support some changes to the two types to make them stronger, particularly for the Area Risk Coverage. That suffered from a lack of county-specific data, and did not have any flexibility to adjust when data didn’t match up with what was actually happening in real-world markets.

Hoeven successfully introduced a bill creating a pilot program he believes will solve some of that.

“Another big one of course, are ag research dollars, and export markets,” Hoeven said. “Those are key things.”

Source: Renee Jean, Williston Herald

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