Merkley Introduces Wildfire and Drought Relief for Ranchers and Farmers Act of 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today introduced the Wildfire and Drought Relief for Ranchers and Farmers Act of 2012 that would provide one year of retroactive mandatory funding for four disaster relief programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These disaster relief programs, which lapsed at the end of 2011, would be able to help those farmers and ranchers affected by the wildfires in Southeastern Oregon. 

“There have been countless wildfires and droughts throughout the nation this summer and this week we have seen the disastrous effects in Southeastern Oregon,” said Merkley. “The government fell down on its job by letting these programs lapse and now we’ve got to make this straight forward fix to help farmers and ranchers not only in Southeast Oregon but across the nation who are dealing with wildfire and drought damage.” 

The four disaster relief programs included in Senator Merkley’s legislation include: 

  • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, which covers losses of forage on private land.
  • Livestock Forage Disaster Program, which covers grazing losses on federally leased land. 
  • Livestock Indemnity Program, which covers livestock deaths on both private or federal land.  Compensates ranchers at a rate of 75% of market value for livestock mortality caused by disaster. 
  • Tree Assistance Program, which provides payments to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers to cover 70% of the cost of replanting trees or nursery stock following a disaster.  

“The Senate extended these programs in the Farm Bill, but the House hasn’t taken it up. We have to act now, because farmers and ranchers who are facing disaster don’t have time to wait,” added Merkley. 

These key disaster relief programs expired at the end of 2011, leaving farmers and ranchers who have lost livestock or grazing land since 2011 with few options. This bill would extend these critical USDA programs, and help farmers and ranchers affected by the wildfires get disaster relief.