Senators introduce bill to revive ag disaster aid
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2013 - Three senators, including Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., joined forces on a bill (S. 141) in hopes of finally finding a pathway for extending agricultural disaster assistance programs through fiscal year 2013.
The bill would extend several programs that expired at the end of FY 2011 and were not included in the one-year farm bill extension adopted by the last Congress as part of the “fiscal cliff” package. The legislation would retroactively cover those programs for FY 2012.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., joined Stabenow in introducing the bill, which is intended to help farmers recover from severe fires and drought across the nation, as well as early freezes for fruit growers.
The bill would extend the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Program, Emergency Livestock AssistanceProgram, Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program and the Tree Assistance Program.
For livestock indemnity payments, the legislation would allow USDA to use “such sums as necessary” from the Commodity Credit Corporation to make payments to eligible producers that have incurred stock death losses due to adverse weather, including hurricanes, floods, blizzards, disease, wildfires, extreme heat, and extreme cold. Also, payments could be made for losses due to attacks by animals reintroduced to the wild by the federal government, including wolves.
The bill would establish a livestock forage disaster program to provide a single source for assistance for weather-related forage losses. Under the bill, “eligible forage loss” includes losses related to drought, flood, blizzard, hail, excessive moisture, hurricane, and fire.
The secretary would be able to provide compensation in “such sums as necessary” for eligible forage losses.
The bill would set a payment rate at 60 percent of the lesser of the monthly feed cost for covered livestock, or the monthly feed cost calculated by using the normal carrying capacity of the eligible grazing land.
In addition, the bill would provide not more than $5 million for emergency aid for producers of livestock, honey bees and farm-raised fish who suffered losses due to disease or adverse weather.
The bill would require the secretary to operate a noninsured crop disaster assistance program to provide coverage based on individual yields to producers at a rate not to exceed 65percent.
Finally, the legislation would extend a tree assistance program, with the definition of “tree” including a tree, bush, and vine. The agriculture secretary would be able to use “such sums as necessary” to provide relief to tree growers at the rate of 65 percent of the cost of tree replacement, or at the rate of 50 percent of the costs of pruning, removal, and other costs incurred by salvaging trees or replanting trees. Total tree payments would not exceed $100,000 for one year.
Updated Jan. 30, 2013
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