Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Tim Johnson (S.D.) introduced legislation this week to provide a one-year extension of agriculture disaster assistance programs that expired at the end of Sept. 2011. As severe fires and drought threaten ranchers and farmers across the country, this extension will provide certainty for American producers while Congress works to pass the next Farm Bill. With uncertainty of how the Farm Bill will proceed, the senators are leading this effort as a standalone bill as a two-pronged approach to extend disaster assistance, given the continuing drought conditions.
Disaster programs extended under this bill include the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program, which provided crop insurance for farmers affected by disasters; the Livestock Indemnity Program that compensates ranchers at a rate of 75 percent market value for livestock mortality caused by disasters; the Livestock Forage Program, which assists ranchers who graze livestock on qualifying drought- or fire-affected pasture land; and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program designed to compensate producers for disaster losses not covered under other disaster programs.
"Montana ranchers and farmers are pitching in and helping each other out in the face of devastating fires and Congress needs to follow their lead," Baucus said.
"The SURE program and livestock disaster assistance programs are designed to give farmers and ranchers greater security when disaster strikes," Conrad said. "This bill will cover crop and livestock losses in 2012 for farmers and ranchers across the nation who are suffering as a result of weather-related disasters."
"Conditions around the country are as dry as I've seen them in a long time, and producers can't wait for help in the Farm Bill. We need to get this assistance on the ground as soon as possible," Tester said.
"The ongoing drought is causing major problems and the disaster assistance programs included in this bill are crucial for our crop and livestock producers," said Johnson.