USDA has finally scheduled the sign-ups for the 2005, 2006 and 2007-crop and livestock disaster programs but not before incurring some searching questions from farm-state congressmen.

Sign-up for the 2005, 2006 and 2007-Crop Disaster Program will begin Oct. 15. The Agriculture Department said the sign-up for livestock disaster programs will start earlier and for the quality loss portion of the CDP sometime later.

Eligible ranchers and livestock producers can apply to receive benefits under the Livestock Compensation Program and Livestock Indemnity Program beginning Sept. 10, USDA officials said. They gave no explanation of why the livestock program sign-up would begin a month earlier than that for crops.

Farmers have been asking about delays in the announcement of the sign-up for all of the disaster programs since shortly after Congress passed legislation authorizing the program in May. So have farm-state congressmen like Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas.

“Throughout my meetings across the 19th District in recent weeks, one thing was made clear by agriculture producers: they need the disaster relief they have been promised,” he said. “I have been stressing the importance of federal assistance for two years now.”

Neugebauer said he told the people of the 19th District that he would contact the Department of Agriculture on their behalf and work to initiate disaster assistance “as soon as possible.”

Much of this money addresses disasters that occurred back in 2005 and is needed to assist those producers who were hit hardest by a combination of droughts, floods, freezes and blizzards, information the congressman reported to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

“In my conversation with Secretary Johanns, I encouraged him to employ this relief sooner rather than later. The secretary was very receptive to my concerns, the needs of the people of the 19th District, as well as the importance of this assistance to all agriculture producers across the nation,” the congressman said.

“I remain skeptical regarding the administration's approach to deliver the federal assistance needed and the status of the current 2007 farm bill. While my conversation with Secretary Johanns was very positive, I will continue to follow through to ensure the relief money is delivered and the priorities and needs of producers are met.”

USDA announced eligible farmers can sign up for the quantity loss portion of the 2005, 2006 and early 2007-Crop Disaster Program beginning Oct. 15. USDA will announce and conduct sign-up for quality losses under the CDP as soon as possible.

Congress included the crop and livestock disaster programs in the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans Care, Katrina Recovery and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act that President Bush signed May 25.

The supplemental appropriations bill was passed over the objections of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and President Bush.

The Crop Disaster Program will provide benefits to farmers who suffered quantity and quality losses to the 2005, 2006 and 2007 crops from natural disasters if the crop was planted before Feb. 28, 2007 or for crops that would have been but were prevented from being planted prior to Feb. 28.

Crop and livestock producers who incurred losses in any of those three years must select one year to apply for benefits. Producers may apply for benefits for losses to multiple commodities as long as the losses occurred in the same crop year.

The LCP program compensates livestock producers for feed losses occurring between Jan.1, 2005, and Feb. 28, 2007, due to a natural disaster. This can include producers who suffered losses resulting from blizzards that started in 2006 and continued into January 2007.

Livestock producers may elect to receive compensation for calendar year 2007 grazing season losses that are attributable to wildfire natural disasters occurring during the applicable period as determined by the secretary of agriculture.

Producers in primary counties declared secretarial disaster areas or certain counties declared presidential disaster areas between Jan. 1, 2005, and Feb. 28, are eligible as are producers located in counties contiguous to those counties. Also, producers in primary or contiguous counties that received an Administrator's Physical Loss Notice directly associated with a presidential disaster declaration.

The Livestock Indemnity Program compensates livestock producers for livestock losses between Jan. 1, 2005, and Feb. 28, 2007, that resulted from natural disasters, including losses due to blizzards that continued into January 2007.

Only producers who obtained crop insurance coverage or coverage under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for the year of loss will be eligible for CDP benefits.

Producers must have suffered quantity losses in excess of 35 percent to be eligible for CDP.

Besides the crop disaster, livestock compensation and livestock indemnity programs, the 2007 act also authorizes funding for the Emergency Forestry Conservation Reserve Program, Emergency Conservation Program and Dairy Disaster Assistance Program III.

USDA recently announced sign-up for EFCRP and the distribution of funds to 18 states under ECP. USDA will announce and conduct sign-up for DDAP-III as soon as possible. USDA's Farm Service Agency will administer the programs.

For more information on the programs, go to the FSA Web site, http://www.frsa.usda.gov and click on Disaster Assistance Programs.

USDA is developing individual fact sheets about all of these programs that will be made available and posted online.