Livestock Owners Asked to Weigh in on Fire Impact

Livestock Owners Should Participate in Fire Survey

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC Agriculture & Natural Resources

Preparing a farm for wildfire is more complicated when it involves protecting live animals. To assess the impact of wildfire on livestock production, University of California researchers are asking livestock producers to participate in a survey. 

People raising cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, swine, horses, llamas, alpacas, aquaculture species or other production-oriented animals in California who have experienced at least one wildfire on their property within the last 10 years are asked to participate in the FIRE survey.

“We will aim to quantify the impact of wildfires in different livestock production systems,” said Beatriz Martinez Lopez, director of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “The idea is also to create a risk map showing areas more likely to experience wildfires with high economic impact in California.

“This economic and risk assessment, to the best of our knowledge, has not been done, and we hope to identify potential actions that ranchers can take to reduce or mitigate their losses if their property is hit by wildfire.”

Martínez López, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology at UC Davis, is teaming up with UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisors and wildfire specialists around the state to conduct the study.

“Right now, we have no good estimate of the real cost of wildfire to livestock producers in California,” said Rebecca Ozeran, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Fresno and Madera counties. “Existing UCCE forage loss worksheets cannot account for the many other ways that wildfire affects livestock farms and ranches. As such, we need producers’ input to help us calculate the range of immediate and long-term costs of wildfire.”

Stephanie Larson, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and range management advisor for Sonoma and Marin counties, agreed, saying, “The more producers who participate, the more accurate and useful our results will be.”

“We hope the survey results will be used by producers across the state to prepare for wildfire,” said Matthew Shapero, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, “And by federal and private agencies to better allocate funds for postfire programs available to livestock producers.”

The survey is online at http://bit.ly/FIREsurvey. It takes 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of properties the participant has that have been affected by wildfire.

“Survey answers are completely confidential and the results will be released only as summaries in which no individual’s answers can be identified,” said Martínez López. “This survey will provide critical information to create the foundation for future fire economic assessments and management decisions.”

Farm Service Agency Can Help with Livestock Losses

Emergency Livestock Assistance Program Can Help with Livestock Losses

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

“It’s been a crash course for me,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, a third generation farmer in California. Last month, she was appointed by the Trump administration to serve as the executive director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s California Farm Service Agency. She recently spoke to California Ag Today about FSA programs for livestock losses, which would be applicable to all states across the country.

“Emergency Livestock Assistance Program … provides financial assistance for eligible producers for certain diseases, adverse weather events, wildfires, and more. These are great programs that we need, especially with some of the disasters California is dealing with,” Bettencourt said.

She is very close to the situation in southern California with all of the fires, which have affected a lot of cattle. Any cattleman or woman who is having trouble should get a hold of the FSA office immediately to get into the system to be matched up to programs such as ELAP.

“We also have a livestock indemnity programs, so if there is unfortunately a loss of livestock, we can definitely help you with that,” Bettencourt said.

ELAP also has a forage program that helps if you have lost the ability to graze, and there are also other programs along the lines of secondary insurance for non insurable crops that can be purchased ahead of time.

“In case there is a disaster, we can help cover some of the costs if you are not able to graze or you are not able to care for cattle in some capacity because of the loss or a disaster of some sort,” Bettencourt explained.

“I would encourage you not only to reach out to our offices, but a lot of the really good trade associations have great information on this as well,” she said.

Subcommittee Examines Economics, Regulations 
Plaguing Livestock Industry

Rep. Rick Crawford, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit, TODAY held a public hearing to review the state of the livestock industry.

Members heard from two panels of witnesses that ranged from the Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to an array of experts representing the animal agriculture industry. Together, they highlighted issues, such as regulatory burdens, feed costs, drought, animal disease, and trade that are impacting this sector of the agricultural economy.

“Today’s hearing offered our members an opportunity to explore a variety of issues impacting the livestock industry. Our farmers and ranchers have endured a great deal over the past few years from record droughts to higher input costs and the ongoing burden and uncertainty associated with mandatory country-of-origin labeling rules.

Combined, all of these issues and others have tightened operating margins, which create challenging business conditions for our producers. I hope we will use what we have learned to work on real and lasting solutions to the problems we discussed,” said Chairman Rick Crawford (R-AR-01).

“In the San Joaquin Valley, our livestock producers are struggling to hold on in the face of a devastating drought, and farm workers who usually have tired hands from working the fields may soon be standing in line at food banks to feed their families,”  commented Ranking Member Jim Costa (D-CA-16).

“As harmful as this drought is to California livestock,” Costa continued, “the fact is that the industry nationwide is battling other factors like the country-of-origin labeling law and the RFS that endanger their bottom lines. Today’s hearing gave us the opportunity to highlight the natural, bureaucratic, and regulatory challenges facing the industry.”