Federal funding meant to compensate ranchers for lost livestock could soon run dry, a looming financial hit that comes after the summer heat wave wiped out thousands of farm animals.

The relief programs -- which pay ranchers for cattle and other livestock that die from extreme weather, disease and other conditions -- were authorized under the 2008 farm bill. While the bulk of that bill lasts through the end of the next fiscal year, the relief programs are set to expire by October 2011.

"It certainly throws a huge wrench into the cash flow," says Tom Shipley, policy director with the Iowa Cattlemen's Association.

There may not be a way to avert at least a temporary funding cutoff. Lawmakers aren't expected to start writing the next farm bill at least until the end of the year.

USDA spokesman Kent Politsch says it looks like the relief provisions will lapse, though he couldn't estimate for how long.

The question is whether lawmakers will reinstate the programs or some version of them next year.

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