October 1, 2004 -- U.S. House and Senate leaders continue efforts to provide additional emergency aid for areas ravaged by recent hurricanes with consideration of including drought disaster funding as well.
The Senate included $3 billion in relief in their version of the 2005 Homeland Security bill, which is now in conference with the House. The drought funding would include livestock assistance to help sheep producers fighting short feed and water supplies.
Congressional leaders, appropriators and the White House have not been able to come to an agreement on two key appropriations matters that are inter-related: The size of the relief measure for hurricane victims and the fate of a $3 billion Senate package of drought assistance for farmers and ranchers.
House Speaker, J. Dennis Hastert (IL) said this week about the drought aid, "I don't know yet ? we want to do what's right for folks."
"While drought conditions are not as widespread this year, they are severe where they do exist and producers are dealing with these conditions for the third to fifth year in a row," says Peter Orwick, executive director of the American Sheep Industry Association. "Congress is hearing from producers in those areas and the opportunity to add drought to the emergency assistance packages to address other natural disasters is encouraging."
Timing continues to be a critical issue as the 108th Congress enters its closing days and the general election is only a few weeks away. Options exist from stand-alone legislation for emergency assistance to inclusion in an omnibus appropriations. However, action could well be in November, after the general election.
Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33