President Signs Disaster Bill Into Law

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Democrats were unable to keep their troop restrictions in the emergency supplemental bill, but they were able to maintain nearly $3 billion in agriculture disaster assistance. On Friday, May 25, the President signed into law H.R. 2206 which includes the funding. The funding will provide relief to farmers and ranchers nationwide who experienced serious losses in 2005-2007. These measures passed by a margin of 280-142 in the House and 80-14 in the Senate Thursday evening, May 24th.

It was questioned whether the bill should have ever made its way to the President's desk. The editorial board at The Forum (North Dakota) made a claim that many agree with. "The ag provision had the enthusiastic support of Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn. They should have pulled it out of the Iraq bill for two reasons.

"First, there was no chance the Iraq pullout legislation would be successful. Second, if the farm disaster provision has merit, it should stand on its own."

Concluding, the editorial stated that, "Don't misunderstand. The disaster money is needed, and has been needed for some time. Pomeroy and Peterson take second place to no one in Congress when it comes to supporting farmers and agri-business. But attaching a farm disaster provision to legislation they know has no chance of becoming law makes no sense. It seems to be little more than a political move designed to remind their constituents they are advocating for agriculture."

This new Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill is approximately $4 billion smaller than an earlier version that was vetoed by the President on May 1st. Some of those cost savings came from cuts to agricultural disaster assistance programs.

The legislation provides crop production loss assistance in a manner similar to previous disaster programs for quantity losses occurring from natural disasters and related conditions that occurred in 2005 or 2006 or 2007, with the losses for 2007 crops covered only if the crop subject to the loss was planted prior to February 28, 2007. A producer will choose one of the 3 years in which they could receive benefits. The quantity loss threshold for eligibility is 35% and the payment rate is set at 42% of the established crop insurance price.

Only producers with crop insurance coverage or those who signed up for the Non-insured Assistance Program will be eligible for assistance. The 95% crop value cap and deduction for crop insurance indemnities is in place. Quality loss assistance is based on the actual, local market discounts suffered by producers based on their crop sales receipts, or as established by the State Farm Service Agency Committee. Payments are to be made on 65% of the crop quantity subject to quality discounts at a payment rate equal to 42% of the market loss sustained and provided that the producer had crop insurance or NAP coverage.

Livestock producers who have been dealt a blow due to natural disasters over the past three years can still benefit from funding that was included for the Livestock Compensation Program (LCP) and Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Producers residing in a county that experienced a USDA designated natural disaster in 2005, 2006 or 2007 can apply for disaster payments for only one of those three years. Funding for LCP was trimmed back to 61% of the levels paid out in 2003, this was a decrease from the 70% payment that was included in the vetoed supplemental. Similarly, LIP payment amounts must be at least 26% of the market value for livestock lost as a result of natural disasters. These LIP payments were reduced from a minimum of 30% of the market value that was included in the vetoed supplemental.

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