The House passed the disaster aid bill 223 to 197 Thursday afternoon. The bill would reauthorize Livestock Indemnity Payments, Livestock Forage Disaster Programs, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish and the Tree Assistance Program. The disaster assistance is only authorized for 2012 and provides for payments totaling 383-million dollars. The bill is not likely to become law however – because it provides less disaster assistance than the five-year farm bill the Senate passed. On top of that – Congress leaves for the August recess Friday.
The cost of the disaster aid measure is offset by cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. The two would be cut by a total of 639-million dollars over 10 years – with 256-million going to deficit reduction.
Farm Bill Gets Attention During Floor Statements on Disaster Aid Legislation
When House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas took to the floor in support of the Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance bill Thursday – he admitted he didn’t like the way the bill was paid for. Still – he said a drought of epic proportions is gripping a large majority of the nation and endangering vast areas of productive agriculture land. Given that the 2008 Farm Bill did not provide a final year of disaster assistance – Lucas told House members they were there to fix a problem – and had a chance to do so with a bill that paid for itself and gave more than 250-million dollars to deficit reduction.
Along with rumblings about the bill’s offsets – Lucas addressed complaints that the farm bill wasn’t coming before the full House. Lucas reiterated that his priority is to get a five-year farm bill on the books. But he argued the most pressing business before Congress is to provide disaster assistance to the producers impacted by the drought conditions who are currently exposed. When Congress returns in September – Lucas said he will work toward the goal of giving certainty to our farmers.
House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson had decided to vote in favor of H.R. 6233 – but when speaking on the floor focused heavily on the fact the House leadership decided not to bring the farm bill to a vote before the August recess. He said the disaster bill would provide some assistance to a few livestock producers affected by drought conditions across much of the country – but explained it was not comprehensive. Pointing out that the farm bill approved by the Agriculture Committee includes the livestock provisions considered as part of the disaster aid package – Peterson argued a five-year farm bill would do a better job of providing certainty for American agriculture and assistance during this period of drought. He said weathering a natural disaster without the certainty of a five-year farm bill could jeopardize one of the nation’s economic bright spots.
Representatives Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Leonard Boswell of Iowa and Randy Neugebauer of Texas urged votes for the disaster bill – but also said the House should take up the five-year farm bill. California’s Jim Costa said he opposed the disaster aid bill because another vehicle exists – the farm bill – to accomplish the same goal.
Source: NAFB News Service