For Immediate Release                                   Further Information:

May 4, 2018                                                    Dave Carter 303.594.4420

                                                                        Karen Conley 605.381.3738

Two Key Senators Urge USDA to Adjust Rates for 2017 Bison Losses
Bison Association Applauds Leadership from Sens. Rounds and Bennet

Westminster, CO (May 4, 2018) – U.S. Sens. Michael Rounds (R-SD) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) today sent a letter to USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey requesting an increase in the Livestock Indemnity Program compensation rates offered to producers suffering losses in 2017.

The Senators’ action came at the request of the National Bison Association. Last fall, the NBA worked with the USDA Farm Service Agency to address the low compensation rates offered to bison producers filing claims under the LIP. That program is designed to provide producers with 75 percent of market value from losses incurred from covered events, such as drought or fire. However, the rates offered to bison producers had been about 25 percent of market value.

FSA significantly increased the compensation level for 2018 losses but did not address the 2017 rates.

The National Bison Association applauded the Senators’ effort to obtain equitable compensation rates for producers suffering losses from the December fire in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and from other disaster events last year.

In their letter to the Undersecretary, the Senators wrote, “We write to request that you take action to address the unfair compensation rates for bison claims filed under the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) in 2017. Without action, bison producers may face challenges due to the USDA's multi-year delay in updating bison compensation rates.

“Last fall, the National Bison Association notified the Farm Service Agency that the compensation rates offered for eligible bison losses were far below the LIP's stated goal of 75% of the actual market value. The compensation rate for bison calves, for example, was less than 25% of actual market value, and bred females were compensated at 32% of the actual market value. In response, the Farm Service Agency used current market information to adjust the compensation rate for 2018, and also establish new methodology to ensure compensation rates reflect actual market values in future years.

The letter continued, “Despite this change, bison producers incurred significant losses in 2017 and now face the prospect of receiving outdated compensation rates (demonstrated in Table 1, below). This includes significant losses in December from the Legion Lake fire in South Dakota. However, the FSA's newly developed model includes calculations that fairly reflect the compensation that should have been provided last year. Therefore, we urge you to use the agency's new model to adjust the rates for claims filed in 2017 that are now pending.

“Congress recognizes that agriculture is a complicated enterprise and has provided USDA and the Farm Service Agency in particular equitable relief authority and other flexibility to correct discrepancies such as the out-of-date tables. We encourage you to use such authority here, instead of requiring producers to appeal on a case-by-case basis.”

NBA Executive Director Dave Carter said, “We deeply appreciate the commitment that Senators Rounds and Bennet are making to the nation’s bison producers. Their bipartisan leadership on our behalf reflects the strong working relationship that the National Bison Association has developed with key policymakers.”