Cattle drought aid awaits Senate action
Congress is heading home for the August recess with no Farm Bill and likely, no drought relief bill. We have an audio report from RFD Radio's Matt Kaye.
Published: Aug 2, 2012
The U.S. House has approved a one-year drought relief plan for the nation’s cattlemen while shelving proposals to sideline a new farm bill.
On the brink of August recess, the House voted 223-197 for a $383 million assistance package for livestock and some fruit farmers. The bill would reactivate the 2008 farm bill’s Livestock Indemnity Program for 2012 and 2013, along with the Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
Both were part of the farm bill’s Supplemental Revenue standing disaster aid program, which expired last fall. Program extensions would be funded through cuts in fiscal 2013 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding.
As of Friday afternoon, Illinois Beef Association (IBA) President Jeff Beasley was hoping for prompt Senate action on drought assistance, “to get money out to the livestock producers.”
“Producers suffering from this statewide drought are looking at potential losses due to a lack of forage availability … (and) having to liquidate herds, etc.,” he told FarmWeek.
“(Proposed measures) aren’t going to be problem-solvers, but they’re certainly going to help in the short-term. I’ve talked to a lot of producers across the state. We’re in the same boat, with high feed prices and reduction in cattle prices. Any relief, the sooner the better.”
To the relief of ag groups including Farm Bureau, House leaders abandoned plans to tie drought aid to a straight one-year extension of the current farm bill. That has raised hopes House lawmakers might take up 2012 farm bill proposals when they return from break in September.
The House bill approved last week allows up to $100,000 in payments per operation, covering 75 percent of the value of animals killed by drought and 60 percent of feed costs for one to three months for on-farm stock, depending on area drought severity.
However, it grants USDA three months to write disaster aid rules before accepting claims and calculating payments.
A variety of ag groups had responded with alarm to House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) earlier proposal merely to extend the current farm bill.
“We’re going to redouble efforts in coming weeks to impress upon Congress that we need a five-year farm bill, and we need it passed this year,” Illinois Farm Bureau National Legislative Director Adam Nielsen reported.
Nielsen was uncertain whether the House would have time in September to pass a farm package, despite Sept. 30 expiration of remaining farm bill provisions. Lawmakers have rejected the notion of going straight to House-Senate conference committee approval of Senate-passed legislation.
Senate and House Ag Committee farm bill proposals would provide emergency help for the livestock sector, and Beasley stressed the need to “get this thing passed now.”
Current farm bill proposals already would trim conservation spending, and Beasley questions the House’s decision to tap EQIP to pay for drought aid (as well as an added amount for deficit reduction). He stressed program importance in Illinois, where drought-hampered producers must adapt to expanded federal water-quality regulations.
“It’s (EQIP) a cost-share program, and to do good conservation practices and other things that are necessary in operations across the state, that cost-sharing is very important,” Beasley stressed.
“If there’s limited access to available funds, that will slow down (post-drought) recovery for individual livestock operations.”
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