Group Speaks Out Against Lack of Wheat Benefits in Drought Aid

Countercyclical payments are not working to help producers in poor production times.

A disaster relief package announced last week by Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns will provide no relief to wheat growers because it relies on a farm bill program that hasn't provided for them since its inception, explains the National Association of Wheat Growers.  

"Wheat growers across the country are facing the worst droughts in decades. A much broader, more comprehensive package is needed - now," says NAWG President Dale Schuler.

Johanns announced $780 million for disaster relief, $700 million of which will go to producers in the form of advanced countercyclical payments. "The problem: countercyclical payments don't work during times of drought because lack of production drives prices up." Schuler explains.  

The countercyclical payment is triggered when crop prices drop. Shortages of wheat caused by drought and other disasters have caused prices to go above the countercyclical trigger. Wheat growers have received almost no countercyclical money since the 2002 Farm Bill was enacted. When visiting with ag talk show hosts at last week's Farm Progress Show, Johanns stated wheat as one of the major crops that has not benefited from the current farm bill for this exact reason.

Many members of Congress spoke out after the package was announced, declaring it a good start but saying much more assistance is clearly needed. "I appreciate Secretary Johanns visiting South Dakota to see firsthand the devastating effects of this year's drought," says Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, where the announcement was made.

"Any amount of relief is a step in the right direction, but more is needed. I'm hopeful the House of Representatives and the Administration will work together and meet the $3.9 billion drought relief package already passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee," Thune adds. 

Democratic Representative from South Dakota Stephanie Herseth was more direct: "I am very disappointed. This package does not adequately reflect the severity of the drought. I'm glad that the Secretary took the time to see the devastation firsthand, but this package does not do enough to help producers who are suffering through one of the worst droughts in a generation. This is a major natural disaster that requires significant relief." 

NAWG staff and members will take part in a disaster assistance fly-in scheduled for Sept. 12 and 13.

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