Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA


August 7, 2012

Disaster relief passes House; ‘dead on arrival in the Senate’

CENTERVILLE — The United States House of Representatives Thursday by a 223-197 vote passed an extension of the Agriculture Disaster Program to help livestock producers and farmers suffering from the heat and drought of 2012.

The legislation, similar to what was proposed earlier by Iowa's House members, extends several disaster relief programs from the 2008 Farm Bill that expired in the fall of 2011 but was not renewed.

The legislation temporarily extends through this year the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments, Livestock Indemnity, Livestock Disaster Forage, Tree Assistance and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish programs.

Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, Democrat 1st district, voted for the extension, while Rep. Dave Loebsack, Democrat 2nd district, that covers Appanoose County, called the extension "insufficient" to deal with the historic drought in Iowa.

Loebsack in a press release issued Thursday said House Republicans "refused to pass the single most important piece of legislation for Iowa farmers — the farm bill." He said the just passed extension is "dead on arrival in the Senate."

Braley in a press release issued Thursday called on politicians in Congress to "act like adults" and not take a recess until the farm bill is passed. Loebsack has been calling on Congress to stay in session until a long-term farm bill is approved.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley Thursday by telephone said the most important thing is to get a farm bill, which is ideally a five-year farm bill, because it provides certainty and allows farmers the advantage of knowing ahead of time what the programs are going to look like.

Anything short of a five-year piece of legislation, like extending the present farm bill one more year, means less certainty for farmers, Grassley said. Not passing a five-year farm bill leaves farmers uncertain if one will even be enacted, despite the fact the United States has had farm bills since the 1930s.

"Farmers deserve a safety net," Grassley said, and livestock farmers need disaster relief similar to what grain farmers have with crop insurance.

Grassley said the farm bill the Senate passed in June contained his provision to set some hard caps on what any one individual farmer can get.

"So we don't have 10 percent of the largest farmers getting 70 percent of the benefits out of the farm program," Grassley said, adding his provision would target the farm bill toward medium and small size farmers.

Grassley, a farmer, is also feeling the heat and the drought on his own crops.

"Our corn is a disaster," he said. "If we don't get some rain pretty soon beans will be a disaster."

Grassley said he expects all 99 Iowa counties eventually will be included in the disaster declaration.

Right now, almost half of Iowa's counties have been declared primary disaster areas.

The United States Department of Agriculture under the direction of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack issued a disaster declaration for Appanoose, Davis, Lucas, Monroe and Wayne counties due to extensive damage to crops and livestock from the recent drought. A large chunk of southeast Iowa is included in the declaration.

That brings 218 counties in 12 states under disaster designations.

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