USDA announces $630 mil disaster aid package, mainly for southern growers

By Stewart Doan

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Washington, Sept. 15 – Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack confirmed Wednesday that USDA will deliver a $630 million disaster aid package to farmers nationwide for 2009-crop losses of corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and sweet potatoes due to excessive moisture and flooding. Also included is $60 million for poultry producers whose contracts were terminated because of integrator bankruptcies and $20 million for catfish growers who suffered high feed costs.

The bulk of the money will go to southern growers, particularly in Arkansas, the home state of Senate Ag Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln.

Vilsack said farmers in about 1000 counties are potentially eligible for payments and he dismissed suggestions that the ad hoc assistance was intended to boost Lincoln's re-election prospects.

In a statement, Lincoln called the relief long overdue and said her efforts will ensure nearly 90 percent of all acres in Arkansas are eligible to receive assistance if they experienced a weather-related disaster.

For Stewart Doan's audio report, with comment from both Vilsack and Lincoln, go to:

For a USDA background paper on disaster assistance, go to:

For a USDA/FSA map of eligible counties, go to:

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