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Cattle at Kist

Congress passed legislation raising funding for livestock disaster programs, making more money available for ranchers affected by the 2017 drought. Above, cattle are gathered at Kist Livestock in Mandan on Tuesday.

Thanks to the latest federal budget legislation, more money is available to livestock producers affected by natural disaster, including North Dakota ranchers hurt by the 2017 drought.

As part of the budget bill, Congress voted to eliminate the funding cap for the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program. Prior to the budget act, funding for ELAP was limited to $20 million.

To ensure the cap was not exceeded, all applications filed by producers were being compiled on a national basis, said Lindsey Abentroth, outreach coordinator for the North Dakota state office of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

If total application dollars had exceeded the $20 million cap, amounts received by all producers would have been uniformly reduced to keep them below the cap, Abentroth said.

“With the removal of the cap, producers should experience a shorter turnaround time from application to payment,” she said.

FSA calculations were showing demand of $40 million and growing, according to the office of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

“Farmers, ranchers and honeybee producers now have the certainty that, if they qualify for ELAP assistance, they’ll get the support they need to recover during challenging times,” Heitkamp said in a statement.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., also expressed his approval of the change saying: "By eliminating the funding cap for ELAP, North Dakota producers are given assurance under less-than-certain circumstances.”

FSA will begin paying producers with 2017 ELAP claims immediately and no further action is needed from producers. For any future claims, FSA will pay ELAP applications as they are filed.

“We worked hard to secure additional ELAP funding for our farmers and ranchers who were affected by last year’s drought,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said.

A majority of the 2017 ELAP applications submitted for drought were for transportation assistance associated with hauling water to livestock, though the exact number of ELAP applications filed for drought assistance is not readily available.

ELAP covers losses not covered by other USDA disaster assistance programs. such as the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, which covers the loss of grazing land due to drought, and the Livestock Indemnity Program for higher than average livestock deaths caused by weather.

Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or


Business Reporter