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Ranchers call the coronavirus food assistance program faulty and unfair

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Several North Dakota ranchers are devastated after seeing the details of the Livestock and Coronavirus Food Assistance Program released by the USDA just last week.

The period in which you had to sell your cattle to receive the highest possible payment has passed, long before the program became available.

A Hazelton rancher says with the assistance he qualifies for, he won’t break even and says his bank isn’t even sure if they’ll fund him for next year.

“There’s a time where you have to say, ‘OK, I have to stop the bleeding’. And unfortunately, I have a son here who wants to do this, and so that’s why we keep fighting,” shared fourth-generation rancher Joe Kalberer.

He runs a mid-size ranch alongside his son, Tyrell.

“So I’m sitting here and it’s the first of June almost, I haven’t gotten my operating money. Me and my son have probably 15 renters we need to pay,” Kalberer added.

Here’s a break down of the program:

  • Part 1 will give ranchers a set payment for each animal, if they were sold between January 15 and April 15.
  • Part 2 gives producers a payment that’s three or more times less per head, for all of the inventory they still had in their pastures between April 16 and May 14.

Kalberer tells us, year after year he’s sold his cattle early in March, which would have earned him $139/head.

This year, he decided to wait until May, holding out hope the cattle market would improve, and he could avoid asking for assistance. And with 1,300 feeder cattle, the difference in relief money is almost $138,000.

“Well that was devastating because when you look at the data, we’re way below the average price or whatever you want to call it, than the people who sold in January and February,” Kalberer said.

He is referring to prices from the USDA’s website. He says anyone who sold cattle after April 15 will tell you the same.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says the USDA purposefully didn’t release the application along with the stipulations until mid-May, long after the April 15 deadline.

“To not manipulate the market, you would want to make sure that if you’re going to put dates in place, it’s going to be for something that’s already happened. Because if you try to pay for something that you believe will happen, Congress won’t stand for it, the people won’t stand for it, and it’s not a good way to build a program. Right, wrong, or indifferent, that was the dates they came up with,” Goehring explained.

We asked the Commissioner if this ends up protecting bigger ranches that were able to sell early despite a loss, versus small and mid-size ranches like the Kalberers.

“That’s just it. It’s a tough call. They did a pretty fair job considering. If I were doing it, I’d probably do it a little different,” he responded.

“I call it discrimination myself, but I don’t know what you want to call it. It’s terrible that you draw a line like that,” Kalberer concluded.

He and his wife, Deb made a point to call both of our U.S. Senators from North Dakota, and an email was sent to President Donald Trump, expressing their frustration and real fear for the future.

The USDA will accept applications now, through August 28. Click here for a link to it, and more information.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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