Committee Delays Formal Action on Disaster Assistance
The Senate Agriculture Committee took no formal action in a meeting to review disaster assistance legislation (S. 2800, Emergency Agricultural Act of ’02) introduced by Sens. Baucus (D-MT), Burns (R-MT), Daschle (D-SD) and Johnson (D-SD). Committee members acknowledged that disaster assistance would be considered when Congress returns in September.
S 2800 would provide disaster assistance to farmers for ’01 and ’02 crop losses (yield and quality) resulting from severe weather, pests and diseases. The legislation waives a provision in the Federal Crop Insurance Act prohibiting emergency disaster assistance and directs the Secretary of Agriculture to use the Commodity Credit Corp. to make "emergency financial assistance…available to producers on farms that have incurred qualifying crop losses for the ’01 or ’02 crop due to damaging weather or related condition, as determined by the (Ag) Secretary."
In summary, the legislation as introduced would cover ’01 and ’02 crop losses, both yield and quality, attributable to severe weather, insects and disease. The coverage would be identical to that provided for ’00 crop losses, and funding would be designated as "emergency," if requested by the President, so it would not require spending reductions to offset the cost. The Congressional Budget Office reportedly estimates the cost of the bill at about $5.0 billion.
Sen. Roberts (R-KS) introduced legislation that is estimated to provide about $2.9 billion in disaster assistance to producers for losses in either ’01 or ’02 at the producer’s option. The legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Brownback (R-KS), Thomas (R-WY), Allard (R-CO) and Crapo (R-ID), would require farmers who have not purchased crop insurance to agree to purchase insurance for 3 years to be eligible for the ’01 or ’02 assistance. When Congress returns in September, the debate likely will center on the cost of the legislation and whether spending cuts should be required to cover the cost.
The NCC has joined with the American Farm Bureau, American Soybean Assn., National Farmers Union and others in expressing support for disaster assistance in a letter to the Senate (http://www.cotton.org/news/2002/Disaster-Assistance-Legislation-Introduced.cfm). The NCC continues to clearly state that modifications in the new farm bill should not be made to pay for disaster assistance.