NM Delegation Presses for Disaster Assistance for Farmers and Ranchers Recovering from December Storms

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham asked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to quickly approve the State of New Mexico’s request for disaster assistance following December’s catastrophic winter storm. The storm hurt farmers and ranchers across 18 New Mexico counties, and a secretarial disaster designation would allow them to access Farm Service Agency emergency loans. These loans can be used for many different purposes, including helping farmers and ranchers replace livestock, pay family living expenses or reorganize farm operations.  

“The agricultural sector is vital to New Mexico, and is the backbone of the rural economy,” the delegation wrote in a letter to Secretary Vilsack. “The livestock mortalities in these counties will have a detrimental effect on the dairy, beef, and sheep within New Mexico. Future damages and losses to farms, ranches and dairies are likely to be significant.” 

Among other losses, thousands of dairy cows were killed in Eastern New Mexico alone. New Mexico is the ninth-largest dairy producing state in the country, and dairy is a crucial part of the state’s economy. In addition to dairy production, thousands of New Mexico jobs depend on cattle growing, farming and livestock.

“Recovering from this storm will require a full and coordinated approach,” the letter continues. “We greatly appreciate the work already done by New Mexico-based USDA employees to assess damages and provide information about USDA programs. Given the wide-spread geographic area of this disaster, and more expected storms in coming weeks, we request speedy action on this request in order to get assistance to impacted communities as quickly as possible.” 

Farmers and ranchers affected by the storms may already be eligible for assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). LIP was permanently authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill to provide benefits to livestock producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather. LIP payments are equal to 75 percent of the market value of the applicable livestock on the day before the date of death of the livestock as determined by the Secretary. The livestock must have been maintained for commercial use as part of a farming operation. LIP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA).

For more information about eligibility and disaster assistance deadlines, New Mexicans should contact their local U.S. Department of Agriculture FSA office as soon as possible, or visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Disaster Assistance Program page.  

The lawmakers' letter is available HERE and below: 

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. SW, Room 200
Washington, D.C.  20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We respectfully request that you take prompt action on Governor Susana Martinez’s request for a Secretarial Disaster Declaration as a result of a catastrophic winter storm that swept through New Mexico in December 2015. The storm resulted in wide-spread damage to the agricultural sector in the following counties: Colfax, Union, Harding, Mora, San Miguel, Quay, Guadalupe, Torrance, De Baca, Roosevelt, Curry, Lincoln, Chaves, Lea, Eddy, Otero, Socorro, and Santa Fe.   

A Secretarial disaster designation will immediately trigger the availability of low-interest Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans to eligible producers in all primary and contiguous counties. The agricultural sector is vital to New Mexico, and is the backbone of the rural economy. The livestock mortalities in these counties will have a detrimental effect on the dairy, beef, and sheep within New Mexico. Future damages and losses to farms, ranches and dairies are likely to be significant.  

Recovering from this storm will require a full and coordinated approach. We greatly appreciate the work already done by New Mexico-based USDA employees to assess damages and provide information about USDA programs. Given the wide-spread geographic area of this disaster, and more expected storms in coming weeks, we request speedy action on this request in order to get assistance to impacted communities as quickly as possible. 

We appreciate your past responsiveness to the State of New Mexico when our communities have sought federal disaster assistance, and thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request.                               

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Tom Udall
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich
U.S. Representative Steve Pearce   
U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján
U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham