Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced legislation last week that would extend agriculture disaster assistance programs which were not part of the nine month farm bill extension included in the “fiscal cliff” package passed by Congress earlier this month. The bill would be retroactive for the 2012 programs and extend them through 2013 while Congress works to pass a full five-year farm bill. Without an extension of these programs, many farmers ranchers will be left with no support to recover from the severe wildfires and crippling drought that affected many producers last year.

Bill Donald, Montana rancher and former president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said the proposed legislation is welcome news.

"Disaster assistance is needed, with nearly 70 percent of cattle county suffering with the drought, and many areas have been suffering for more than two years,” said Donald. “Currently there is no consistency with disaster assistance which makes it questionable if producers can count on it or not.”

The disaster programs extended include the Livestock Indemnity Program, which compensates ranchers at a rate of 65 percent market value for livestock mortality caused by disasters, Livestock Forage Program, which assists ranchers who graze livestock on qualifying drought-or fire-affected pasture and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program, which compensates producers for disaster losses not covered under other disaster programs.

Baucus wrote a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to take action on providing disaster assistance to farmers and ranchers. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) are also supporting the bill.

“This bill will go a long way to ensure cattle producers will have the stability to operate even when Mother Nature creates challenges,” said Donald. “We appreciate the Senators' efforts to set disaster assistance in statute and we hope it will be considered by Congress as soon as possible.”