Pillen Seeks Fed Aid on Cattle Losses

Nebraska Governor Asks Vilsack for Indemnity Adjustment on Cattle Losses

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen has asked USDA to make an adjustment to the federal Livestock Indemnity Program to pay farmers who reportedly lost cattle during a recent heat wave. (DTN/Progressive file photo)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Without providing details about actual livestock losses, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen asked the USDA for additional federal assistance for cattle producers who reportedly lost animals in a major heat wave across the state last week.

Pillen, a Republican and pork producer in Nebraska, spoke to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack by phone on Thursday, according to a letter Pillen also sent to Vilsack.

"We are encouraging affected producers to work closely with their county Farm Service Agencies to record losses and seek federal support from emergency livestock programs for which they may be eligible," Pillen said in the letter.

The number of cattle lost in the heat wave with heat indices 110 degrees and higher for several days last week, remains unknown.

A spokeswoman for Pillen stated officials do not know the extent of the cattle losses. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture did not respond to a request for information about estimated cattle losses.

Pillen's letter asked the USDA to provide additional federal assistance to Nebraska producers.

Pillen told Vilsack the current Livestock Indemnity Program payments do not meet statutory requirements. Those payments, according to Pillen, are to be at a rate of 75% of the market value of affected livestock.

"Yet in practice, USDA utilizes the flexibility provided to make indemnity payments based on a chart of the previous year's average market rate," Pillen said in the letter.

"A chart based off last year's market rate does not accurately capture current market prices. If Nebraska cattle producers were to be paid out for last week's event based on the current chart, they would receive a payment that met only about 50% of the market value of their lost livestock instead of the 75% as authorized by statute."

A footnote in the letter said: "In accordance with the 2023 LIP chart, the largest class weight for cattle is 800 pounds and above. The maximum payment then is $1,244.61. The cattle impacted by last week's event were at finish, or near finished weights, close to 1,400 pounds. In the current market, these cattle are worth $2,609.22 per head, meaning the LIP payment is only 47.7% of market value."

Pillen said the USDA deputy administrator has the authority to "correct this discrepancy" and "should do so immediately."

"There is recent precedent for such an adjustment," Pillen said.

"In 2022, North Dakota worked with the USDA to modify their LIP payments for a late-season blizzard which dramatically affected their calving season. Nebraska would like to work with your team to identify a similar solution to assist our producers."

Pillen is the second Nebraska elected official to contact Vilsack this week. Rep. Mike Flood on Monday also sent a letter to the secretary.

"Regrettably, I have heard from constituents about troubling reports of livestock loss due to extreme heat and humidity," Flood wrote to Vilsack.

"Heat loss can pose a serious threat to the vitality of cattle operations and livelihoods of many hardworking Nebraskans."

Flood did not make any specific requests of Vilsack only to "urge the USDA and the FSA to work quickly and diligently in responding to producers, providing technical assistance, processing applications, accurately calculating payments and delivering payments quickly."

Last summer, producers in Kansas reported heat-stress cattle losses of about 10,000 head, https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley

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