About $6 million has been allocated to some 900 southeastern Idaho farmers and ranchers through the federal government's massive drought aid package.
But federal officials say some of the checks were mailed a week ago but haven't been received by the farmers. They're trying to track them down.The payments are about half what county Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service directors expect to approve before the program ends March 31, 1989.
"It sure helps," Arbon Valley farmer Ken Estep said. "It's a far cry short of a good crop, but compared to not having it . . ."
Estep, who planted wheat on 800 dryfarm acres, reported losing about 75 percent of his crop. What he did harvest was "probably the worst we've had."
The payments make up for only about one-third of a normal harvest.
A glitch in postal service apparently has delayed payments in the Pocatello area to about 60 farmers. In Bannock County, 66 checks - totaling $164,000 - were placed in drop boxes earlier this month. The six with local addresses arrived; the 60 out-of-town payments are unaccounted for.
Pocatello Postmaster Bill Davenport said ASCS and postal officials are working to track down the letters. Postal officials have requested a list of addresses and a sample of the type of envelope the ASCS office used.
Estep was one of some 125 Power County farmers who received some $1.4 million in payments, according to Norman Wright, Power County ASCS director.
"We're not through yet either," Wright said, explaining that many farmers and ranchers will wait until 1989 to collect their payments. That way they can avoid a higher 1988 income tax bracket.
The same is true in six other nearby counties.
In Franklin County, 148 producers have qualified for payments totaling $753,000, but only $492,000 has been allocated. Lane Peterson, Franklin County ASCS director, said many farmers have requested payment not be made until 1989.
So far, Caribou County is reporting the most money allocated, $1.5 million to about 150 producers. Oneida County has paid $1.3 million to 213 farmers; Bannock County $762,000 to 170 farmers; Bear Lake County $550,000 to about 100 farmers; and Bingham County $85,000 to about 15 farmers.
No statewide payment figures will be available until the program ends.
All ASCS offices contacted, except Bingham, expected to receive several more payment requests before the program ends.
Bingham County, which consists mostly of irrigated land, was not hit as hard by the drought, according to ASCS Director Steve Fulmer.
Bear Lake, Caribou, Oneida and Power counties, however, are among some of the state's most afflicted, according to ASCS officials.
The $3.9 billion national program, which took effect Oct. 3, provides financial assistance to farmers who suffer crop losses of more than 35 percent of their expected harvest.
Livestock owners also have benefited from the program through the Emergency Livestock Feed Program. The program will provide ranchers either with money for feed purchases or access to government-stored feed at a reduced price.