Dairy operators in Puerto Rico to get USDA aid for feed

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

Credit: istock
Credit: istock
Following hurricane damage, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide emergency feed assistance to dairy producers in Puerto Rico.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced​ the Dairy Assistance Program for Puerto Rico (DAP-PR) program at the end of last week. Some $12m has been designated to the initiative - the aim is to help the operators of the 253 licensed dairy facility in Puerto Rico buy feed for their cattle for a period of time.

Puerto Rico’s agricultural sector was devastated by both hurricanes Irma and Maria, said the USDA.

Different natural disasters like the series of hurricanes that hit several US states and Puerto Rico earlier this year call for different types of responses, said Clay Detlefsen, senior vice president for regulatory and environmental affairs with the National Milk Producers Federation.

“In Florida, the issue was feed and power,” ​he told FeedNavigator. “In [Puerto Rico], the issues are feed, power, water (due to power outages), fuel for generators, generators and parts (for generators breaking down), shelter for animals.”

Voucher details

The voucher program has already started to take effect, said the USDA. Dairy producers were intended to be able to apply for emergency assistance on the 21.

Through the new program, dairy producers can apply to the Farm Service Agency to receive a voucher, the USDA said. The vouchers are expected to cover a one-month supply of feed.

Eligible producers will be able to buy feedstuffs from a group of approved feed vendors, said a USDA Farm Service Agency spokesperson. These include: ADM Alliance Nutrition of Puerto Rico LLC, Pan American Grain, and Federación de Asociaciones Pecuarias de PR, Inc.

“DAP-PR is intended to help eligible dairy producers pay for feed to keep their operations working until the situation in the Commonwealth stabilizes,”​ the spokesperson told us. “If funding remains available at the end of the application period, the USDA Farm Service Agency may provide assistance for additional feed or fuel purchases to further support these dairy operations.”

Throughout the next month forage on the island is anticipated to start returning and feed supplies should start to normalize, said Detlefsen. “It would be nice if we could get forage to [Puerto Rico] until it grows back, that way the cows would have a balanced diet – so far, that has been a logistical problem,”​ he added.

“It is envisioned that some of the $12m will be used to offset higher fuel prices and the fact it costs more to generate power than to buy it from the grid,”​ he said.

The total amount of the voucher was calculated based on 100% of the estimated feed costs for a cow for 30 days, said the USDA. Puerto Rico is estimated to have about 94,000 dairy cows.

The assistance program will be managed by the Farm Service Agency, which as both staff and offices on the island, the department said. Funding for the special initiative is being provided through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

The CCC Charter Act allows corporations to offer materials and facilities needed for the production and marketing of an agricultural commodity – other than tobacco, said the department. The DAP-PR is intended to be a one-time program, established to provide disaster relief and to support the generation and marketing of Puerto Rican dairy.

The program is only on offer for producers in Puerto Rico, the department said. Additional USDA staff also are expected to be sent to the island.

“Dairy operations face additional losses unless they have feed for their remaining cattle,”​ Sonny Perdue, US agriculture secretary, said in a release. “This funding will enable them to get the help they need until the situation in Puerto Rico stabilizes.”

All applications for the program have to received by December 1, 2017, the department said.

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