A $52 billion dollar bipartisan jobs bill that includes disaster assistance to farmers has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., says the disaster assistance included in the HIRE jobs bill is based on legislation she and Senator Thad Cochran, R-Miss., introduced in November. Direct payments would bridge the gap until 2009 Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program payments are issued next fall.
The bill would provide an estimated $1.1 billion dollars in direct payment assistance to producers in counties declared "primary" disaster areas by USDA. The package would provide payments to producers who lost at least five percent of their crop in either quality or quantity. Producers would be eligible for disaster payment equal to 90% of their yearly direct payment. Also included is $150 million to assist specialty crop producers, $75 million in emergency loans to poultry producers, $50 million in assistance for livestock producers, $25 million in aquaculture assistance and $42 million to aid first handlers of cottonseed.
The bill also includes a one-year extension of the $1-a-gallon subsidy for biodiesel. It would also extend several energy tax provisions, including credits for home efficiency and alternative fuel vehicles, as well as for biodiesel, renewable diesel and other alternative fuels.