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USDA Offers Relief to Farmers on Heels of Georgia Awareness Efforts

WASHINGTON—The USDA has announced that Georgia cattlemen are now eligible for increased relief as the historic drought drags on across the state. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has extended the 2016 grazing season from October 31 to December 1. Under the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) cattlemen receive reimbursement based on how many head of cattle they have, their acreage, and the drought level and time length within that level. Specifically, this will allow two Ninth District counties the opportunity to qualify for higher levels of drought reimbursement. This announcement comes one day after U.S. Congressman Doug Collins (R- Ga.) and Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black drew attention to the plight of farmers at a Pray for Rain event in Northeast Georgia.

The LFP compensates farmers whose grazing land withers under drought conditions, forcing them to purchase hay or other feed to sustain their livestock. Congressman Collins’ team has reached out to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency to request an extension of the grazing season, and the USDA’s decision allows farmers struggling under the devastating dry spell to qualify for an additional month of payment to offset increased feed costs.

“Secretary Vilsack took appropriate action to protect Georgia’s farmers and economy by extending the grazing season in the wake of this crippling drought,” said Congressman Collins, “and I want to thank my colleague Congressman Sanford Bishop as well as my friend Commissioner Gary Black for their efforts to highlight this issue on behalf of our communities. I encourage local and federal agencies to continue to work together to address the ongoing consequences of the drought—to ensure that our drought monitoring remains accurate and that farmers are aware of the resources available to them.”

As 2016 water levels are down in Northeast Georgia, participation in the LFP is up, with more than 1,100 farmers in all 20 counties applying for drought relief as of October 13. This assistance is vital to the economy of the Ninth District, which the Agricultural Statistics Service says leads the state in the value of its calf and cattle sales.

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