Cattle feed Monday in Union County. Even if the worst of cold weather has passed, weather still is a concern for agriculture producers as potential exists for warmth, run-off and flooding, according to Jennifer Isley of the USDA’s La Grande office. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
Following some unusually harsh weather conditions this winter, the local office of the United States Department of Agriculture is urging farmers to document any crop or livestock losses.
Beginning in early December, Oregon saw a long-enduring cold snap featuring record low temperatures. Jennifer Isley of the USDA’s La Grande office said that while damages don’t appear to be widespread in Union County, she wants to make sure local farmers understand the importance of recording any losses. Without that proof, producers could lose eligibility for USDA programs.
“We work to make sure producers are informed of any disaster assistance that may become available due to adverse weather, and it is helpful to know how the weather has affected livestock or crops,” Isley said.
“Sometimes there’s a cumulative effect, and if we don’t know what it is, it’s harder to help.”
Isley said it is best to record damages with a cell phone camera or other digital camera that imbeds a date and time stamp with the image. She said she is particularly urging farmers who saw frost damage to take that step before plowing fields under.
Isley, USDA’s Union County executive director, said producers should contact her office about any losses, and also make sure to notify their insurance agents.
Both Isley and Cory Parsons, Oregon State University Extension Service livestock agent for Union and Baker counties said agricultural damages because of the cold don’t appear heavy.
Parsons said it’s fortunate that the worst of the cold snap happened in December and January, before the calving season was well under way. Isley said, though, that the cold weather may have taken some toll on calves.
She said her office is monitoring reports about losses to determine cumulative effect.
“Most (USDSA relief) programs don’t kick in until we have a mortality rate,” she said.
Isley added that even if the worst of the cold has passed, weather still is a concern.
“There’s a potential for warmth, and with run-off, there’s flooding,” she said.
Isley said she isn’t sure just how her office will be able to help with crop and livestock losses, because of changes in the U.S. Farm Bill.
President Barack Obama signed the bill Feb. 7, following a bitter, two-year Congressional impasse. Isley said her office is reviewing the bill and plans meetings with local agricultural producers when the review is complete.