Since 2011 many Southwestern and Western livestock producers have suffered significant set backs and losses as a result of ongoing drought conditions.

Cyclic weather patterns, like recurring climate change, have been named as the most likely culprit for the current dry trend across much of North America and in other parts of the world. But regardless the cause or reason, livestock producers have been sadly burdened with the results— withering forage crops and dwindling livestock inventories in direct response to climate-related loss and destruction.

While some disaster assistance programs have been available for farmers, livestock producers who have been forced to cull herds significantly over the last three years have been particularly hard hit and were faced with fewer program opportunities for recovery. Also suffering from climate calamity with few options for assistance are honeybee and tree nursery operations and operators of fish farms.

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The desperate need for disaster assistance and drought relief that goes beyond what is normal or expected in a given season, spurred USDA officials and members of the Senate and House agriculture committees to establish additional levels of emergency support for these producers in the new farm program, adopted in February.

Four months into the new year and with the threat of additional dry weather for the summer months looming, USDA has announced the extra disaster assistance included in the new farm legislation is now ready to roll out.

USDA announced early this week that farmers and ranchers can sign up for disaster assistance programs that have been reestablished and strengthened by the Agriculture Act of 2014, beginning Tuesday, April 15.

During a press conference April 7, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said quick implementation of the programs has become a top priority for USDA.