Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., this week introduced legislation to extend agriculture disaster assistance programs that expired at the end of the 2011 fiscal year and were not part of the nine month Farm Bill extension. The bill would backfill the programs for 2012 and extend them through 2013 while Congress works to pass a long-term Farm Bill.
Without an extension, the Senators say many ranchers and farmers will be left with no support to recover from severe fires and drought that swept the country last year as well as early freezes for fruit growers.
"Montana ranchers work hard every day to support jobs across our state and put food on tables across the country, and we can't turn our backs on them during the worst drought in more than 50 years," Baucus said. "This bill is the right thing to do for our ranchers and the right thing to do for Montana jobs."
Sen. Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, emphasized agriculture's economic importance.
"Agriculture supports nearly one in four jobs in Michigan and 16 million jobs nationwide, and when key parts of the industry are hit this badly it impacts our whole economy," she said. "Our nation is helping families who lost everything because of weather disasters like a hurricane in the Northeast, and it is only right we also help farming families who lost everything because of weather disasters."
Disaster programs extended under the bill include:
Livestock Indemnity Program, which compensates ranchers at a rate of 65% market value for livestock mortality caused by disasters and reintroduced animals, such as wolves.
Livestock Forage Program, which assists ranchers who graze livestock on qualifying drought- or fire-affected pasture land.
Emergency Livestock Assistance Program, which compensates producers for disaster losses not covered under other disaster programs.
Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for fruit losses, which would make fruit producers who experience losses due to frost or freeze in disaster counties, and did not have access to crop insurance, eligible to purchase 65% "buy-up" coverage for losses in 2012.
The Tree Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.
"I won't stop fighting for this critical disaster relief until we get farmers and ranchers back on their feet again," said Blunt, who serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.
As members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Baucus and Stabenow worked to create the Livestock Disaster Assistance Program in the 2008 Farm Bill. They included a provision in the Senate Farm Bill to extend the programs permanently and backfill the FY 2012 lapse in livestock disaster. The Senate Farm Bill passed June 21, 2012.
Baucus originally introduced legislation to extend the disaster programs in 2012.