White House assures Sen. Lincoln $1.5 bil. in disaster aid this month, EWG objects

By Stewart Doan

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Aug. 6 – The White House on Friday penned a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) pledging to deliver disaster aid to farmers who suffered at least a 5% crop loss in 2009 by the end of August, according to a copy of the document obtained by Agri-Pulse.

“I want to assure you that the Administration is committed to providing assistance consistent with your legislative proposal by the end of this month,” said Rob Nabors, acting deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“OMB and USDA are aware of existing authorities and are currently reviewing the most appropriate manner by which to provide such assistance. We are currently evaluating options to ensure compliance with existing laws, ease of administration, and effectiveness of targeting the assistance to those in need.”

While there is some aid for livestock and produce growers, the bulk of the disaster spending in Lincoln’s $1.5 billion proposal would result from an additional, one-time payment to producers of corn, cotton, rice, soybean and wheat equal to 90 percent of their ’09 "direct payments.”

Thursday, the Environmental Working Group issued a statement critical of the White House for embracing the disaster aid plan, saying it will mean “a six-figure windfall for hundreds of plantation-scale, highly subsidized rice and cotton farms across the South.

According to a EWG analysis, Arkansas will receive the most funding — some $210 million — due to the large number of counties declared eligible by USDA and the high direct payment rates associated with rice and cotton farms in the state. The next highest amounts will go to Illinois ($174 million), Texas ($146 million), Iowa ($128 million) and Oklahoma ($106 million).

Ten states are projected to account for 76 percent of the direct payment-related disaster funding, EWG said.

To hear Stewart Doan’s audio report on this story, click on: www.agri-pulse.com/uploaded/AgDisaster080510.mp3

To read the White House letter to Senator Lincoln, click on: www.agri-pulse.com/uploaded/WH_Letter_to_Lincoln_Aug6.pdf

To read the Environmental Working Group’s analysis of Lincoln’s ag disaster package, click on: www.ewg.org/Large-Farms-To-Reap-Subsidy-Windfall-Under-Disaster-Aid-Plan-Embraced-by-White-House

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