A dead animal tangled in fence
U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer wrote a letter Thursday to farm bill conferees in Congress, bringing attention to the livestock losses in western Nebraska during the heavy, wet blizzard Oct. 5-6.
The storm struck the Nebraska counties of Dawes, Sioux, Box Butte and Sheridan, killing 3,000-5,000 cattle, the Nebraska Emergency Management Office estimates.
The wet heavy snow was driven by gale-force northwest winds. Cattle piled up in pockets or drifted with the wind until they collapsed from exhaustion or became tangled in fences.
"Several key factors combined to dramatically escalate the death of livestock," Fischer wrote, "including the lack of physical cover and protection from winter elements, cold wind and freezing rain which preceded the blizzard conditions, and the inability of the animals to naturally protect themselves from the sudden cold weather due to a lack of winter coat and hide conditioning."
Fischer highlighted the losses to make the case for a speedy reauthorization of the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), which is contained in the final farm bill conference report.
The Farm bill has been stalled for nearly a year while Congress is gridlocked. House Republicans want to curb food stamp spending, which is included in the bill with traditional farm subsidies, crop insurance and disaster payments.
LIP provides assistance to producers for livestock deaths in a disaster. In the past, the LIP national payment rate for eligible livestock is based on 75 percent of the average fair market value of the livestock. In 2011, that amounted to $746.95 per cow, according to a fact sheet published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Citing substantial economic impact suffered by livestock producers because of the storm, combined with drought throughout the region in recent years, Fischer said, “LIP support would provide some modest assistance to Nebraska producers struggling through these difficult economic times for their industry.”