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Animal feed shortage results in disaster aid

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Reps. Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan announced Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a federal disaster declaration to provide assistance for Minnesota farmers hurt by the shortage of animal feed.

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The announcement comes after the members urged the department to issue a disaster declaration in a letter earlier this week. Last year's drought, along with this year's late spring and heavy rains have led to exceptional losses to the alfalfa crop that Minnesota dairy and cattle producers rely on as a high-protein animal feed.

"The recent cases of extreme weather and resulting feed shortages have hurt too many farmers and ranchers throughout Minnesota," Klobuchar said in a press release. "This support will help dairy and cattle producers get through these challenging times and ensure our rural economies remain strong."

"Minnesota's livestock producers have a hard job, and that's without having to worry about feed shortages threatening their livelihoods," Franken added. "While I have pressed USDA for more robust relief, this will offer some help to producers whose operations are taking serious hits. This assistance is important for Minnesota and our ag industry."

The declaration designates Carver, Dakota, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Jackson, Le Sueur, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Rock, Scott, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Washington and Winona counties as primary disaster counties. Anoka, Blue Earth, Chisago, Cottonwood, Hennepin, McLeod, Martin, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Ramsey, Sibley, Watonwan and Wright counties were designated contiguous disaster counties. The declaration makes producers in these counties eligible for emergency loan assistance to help address crop losses and high feed costs.

"This disaster declaration is welcome news and will provide our farmers and ranchers with at least some measure of relief," Walz said. "While I'm pleased the USDA issued this declaration, there is more work to be done to fully address the feed shortage and give farmers the flexibility they need to continue to provide the world with a safe, abundant supply of food. I will continue to urge the USDA to take steps to address our ongoing feed shortage."

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