WASHINGTON – Mandated payment reductions for disaster assistance are set to take effect at the beginning of the new fiscal year, prompting the US Department of Agriculture to encourage ranchers who need help to apply soon.

The 2011 Budget Control Act requires USDA to reduce the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) by 7.3 percent in the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Producers who have scheduled appointments with their local Farm Service Agency office before Oct. 1 will see reductions in their disaster relief payments, according USDA.

"In just four months since disaster assistance enrollments began, we've processed 240,000 applications to help farmers and ranchers who suffered losses," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Eligible producers who have not yet contacted their local FSA office should stop by or call their local FSA office, or sign up online before Oct. 1 when congressionally mandated payment reductions take effect. This will ensure they receive as much financial assistance as possible."

LFP compensates eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire between Oct. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2014. Producers forced to cull their livestock may also be eligible for program benefits, USDA noted.

Additionally, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Tree Assistance Program and the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program Frost Freeze payments will also be cut by 7.3 percent on Oct. 1. USDA said applications for these programs must be fully completed by Sept. 30. FSA offices will prioritize these applications.

An online registration option is available as an alternative to visiting or contacting the county office. Visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/disaster-register to register online.