September 21, 2007
September 21, 2007 - A bipartisan group of farm state senators on Wednesday called for permanent disaster aid to be part of the next Farm Bill, and the push appears to be gaining momentum with key lawmakers.
The lawmakers say a fixed program is needed to provide more immediate help to farmers who suffer crop losses from droughts, floods and other unpredictable weather.
"Farmers need help when they suffer disasters, it's that simple," Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.) said at a news conference surrounded by a half dozen of his Senate colleagues. "We should not have to wait to piggyback onto some other national disaster that gets perhaps a little bit more prominence than we get."
Joining Baucus at the new conference were Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Orin Hatch (Utah), Ken Salazar (Colo.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and John Thune (S.D.)
Currently, Congress passes disaster aid for farmers on a case-by-case basis. Since 1998, Congress has approved 23 disaster assistance bills totaling more than $47 billion.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), agreed, calling on lawmakers to "end the annual congressional circus act of responding to every natural disaster individually."
The idea of establishing a permanent disaster fund has met resistance from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (Iowa), who believes money can be spent on other programs like conservation and nutrition.
Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has said he will free up an extra $8 billion to $10 billion in new agriculture-related tax proposals to help pay for the permanent disaster program and other programs. Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33