Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., introduced new disaster legislation Thursday.
Burns, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, already successfully added disaster assistance to the bill covering 2005 losses but feels in light of this year's devastating fire season in Montana, the weather-related losses should be expanded.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the price of the legislation, which covers a variety of disaster needs nationally, at $6.4 Billion.
"We need to address disaster assistance and we need to do it right away." says Burns. "I already have an amendment attached to Agriculture Appropriations that covers 2005 crop and livestock losses, and this year's devastating fire season in Montana shows the need to expand that for 2006 as well. I've asked the Senate Leadership to bring the Agriculture Appropriations bill to the floor so we can add this important help for producers and I'll keep searching for appropriate vehicles for drought, fire, and other agricultural disaster needs."
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., introduced similar disaster legislation, but Burns felt it didn't do enough to address wildfire-related losses. "I'm supportive of Senator Conrad's legislation, and any efforts to deliver assistance to producers, but I want to make sure that fire recovery funding is provided. My legislation will do that, as well as help out farmers and ranchers who are dealing with other losses," Burns says.
The summary of the Emergency Wildfire and Farm Relief Act of 2006 is as follows:
TITLE I – WILDFIRE RELIEF
Sec. 101 – Emergency Conservation Program
Provides $30 million for ECP, with $2 million directed to Montana for wildfire recovery efforts.
Sec. 102 – Environmental Quality Incentives Program
Provides $200 million for EQIP, with $10 million directed to Montana for wildfire recovery efforts.
Sec. 103 – Livestock Assistance Grant Program
Provides $100 million in funding for the new Livestock Assistance Grant Program, as announced by the Secretary on August 29, 2006. Funding is distributed through block grants to states, and is used to help producers in drought areas with feed and grazing issues. Specifies that producers in counties afflicted by wildfires shall also be eligible.
TITLE II – AGRICULTURE PRODUCTION LOSSES
Sec. 201 – Crop Disaster Assistance
Provides assistance for crop losses due to weather-related disasters in 2005 and 2006.
Sec. 202 – Livestock Assistance
Provides funding for both the Livestock Compensation Program and Livestock Indemnity payments, for losses in 2005 and 2006. Requires producers to provide evidence of actual loss to qualify for assistance. Specifies that losses caused by wildfires in Montana shall be eligible for assistance.
Sec. 203 – Sugarbeet assistance
Provides $24 million for sugar beet losses in 2005.
Sec. 204 – Bovine tuberculosis indemnification
Provides $2 million for bovine tuberculosis losses in 2005.
Sec. 205 – Reduction in payments
TITLE III – SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION AND AGRICULTURAL ECONOMIC DISASTER ASSISTANCE
Sec. 301 – Replenishment of Sec. 32
Provides $100 million in block grants for specialty crops.
Sec. 302 – Supplemental economic loss payments
Provides a supplemental direct payment to producers, in an amount equal to 30% of their direct payment, to address unprecedented spikes in energy costs in 2005. Also provides assistance to dairy producers.
TITLE IV – CONSERVATION
Sec. 401 – Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
Provides $60 million for EWP.
TITLE V – FARM SERVICE AGENCY
Sec. 501 – Funding for Additional Personnel
Provides $30 million in administrative funding to FSA, to allow the agency to expedite implementation and delivery of agriculture assistance.
TITLE VI – MISCELLANEOUS
Title provides necessary authorities to the Secretary to implement the Act.
TITLE VII – EMERGENCY DESIGNATION
Provides that funding shall be designated as emergency funding.