USDA Designates V.I. Part of Drought Monitor, V.I. Eligible for Livestock Forage Disaster Program

Hills are turning brown all over St. Thomas under drought conditions (sap photo)
In April 2019, hills turned brown all over St. Thomas under drought conditions. (sap file photo)

In the past year, the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the UVI Cooperative Extension Service Environmental Health and Climate Team, successfully applied for and became a part of the U.S. Drought Monitor, which shows the location and intensity of droughts across the United States and its territories. This became extremely important when the U.S. Virgin Islands experienced a drought beginning in April that did not abate as expected in May and has continued with minimal relief.

This designation (a first for the St. Thomas-St. John District), qualifies the Virgin Islands for the Livestock Forage Disaster Program through the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), which offers payments to eligible livestock producers and grazed forage crop acreage.

These payments can help cover up to 60 percent of monthly feed costs, which is calculated by using the normal carrying capacity of the grazing land. Herein lies another opportunity for assistance for farmers to access funding.

To be eligible for the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, persons or legal entities must be registered with the USDA Farm Service Agency and be a U.S. citizen, resident alien, partnership of U.S. citizens, legal entity organized under state law or Indian tribe or tribal organization defined in the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act that:

  • Own, cash or share lease, or be a contract grower of covered livestock during the 60 calendar days before the beginning date of a qualifying drought
  • Provide pastureland or grazing land for covered livestock, including cash-rented pastureland or grazing land as of the date of the qualifying drought that is physically located in a county affected by a qualifying drought during the normal grazing period for the county
  • Certify that they have suffered a grazing loss because of a qualifying drought
  • Timely file an acreage report for all grazing land for which a grazing loss is being claimed.

This benefit began distribution to farmers circa July 21. For more information on the timeline of assistance, broken down by island, see the list below.

Island — Drought Category — You may get assistance payments equal to:

St. Croix ——D3 (extreme drought) ——— Four months

St. Thomas ——– D2 (severe drought) —- One month

St. John ——— D3 (extreme drought) —— Four months

To apply, contact USDA FSA for an appointment at 340-773-9146, ext. 105. For more information, visit email [email protected].

Agriculture thanks U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett for their assistance in securing this funding.