By Congressman Emanuel Cleaver
I will soon be introducing new legislation that will make supplemental agriculture disaster assistance available. This is critically important for farmers and ranchers in Missouri’s Fifth District and I am very pleased Congressman Sam Graves is cosponsoring this legislation with me. We both believe the bond between rural and urban legislators needs to be strengthened, so our constituents are represented fairly and treated justly in Washington.
Last year’s drought was, simply put, devastating. It reduced the nation’s cattle herd, for example, to its smallest size in longer than 60 years, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Missouri saw the size of its herd decrease by 6 percent. Texas – 5 percent. Kansas – 4 percent. I know these numbers are not new to you, nor do they come as a surprise. My hope is this new legislation will provide much needed relief, in this, and other areas.
Our bill would extend disaster assistance to programs that expired in October of 2011 and make funds available for Fiscal Year 2012-13. It would extend four of the five USDA disaster programs that were created in the 2008 Farm Bill. The authorization for these programs expired in October of 2011. They were reauthorized in legislation this past January, but they were not given specific funding levels.
Congressman Graves and I are hoping to push leadership into action on disaster assistance and on the reauthorization of a long overdue 5-year farm bill. It is a companion to the Senate bill (S.141) recently introduced by Senators Baucus, Blunt, Stabenow and McCaskill.
This legislation includes changes in the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Program, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Bees, & Farm-raised Fish, the Tree Assistance Program, and fruit losses from 2012 freezes in the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
I know legislative bills can be cumbersome to read through, so I would like to highlight some of those changes.
• payment rates for livestock deaths would be extended for 2012 and 2013
• grazing losses would be extended through 2013
• weather-related losses would be funded at $5M annually for 2012 and 2013
• damages from disasters for orchards and nursery tree growers would be extended
• new language would allow producers without access to crop insurance the opportunity to “buy-up” coverage for losses in 2012
My hope is, by extending assistance in these areas, we can keep these crucial safety net programs available and accessible to those who desperately need them.
I will continue to keep you updated on the introduction and progress of this legislation. In the meantime, as always, I will continue to work for the passage of a long-term, comprehensive farm bill that will be fair, and allow hardworking families the economic security and certainty they need to move forward.