Farmers, Ranchers Await Disaster Relief Fix

Congress had the chance to restore some programs as part of the fiscal cliff deal but failed to do so.
by | February 5, 2013
 

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would extend federal disaster relief programs for farmers and ranchers that haven't been funded for several years.

Five disaster relief programs that saw their funding expire at the end of the 2011 fiscal year haven't been extended, and Congress again opted against funding them when it had the chance to do so as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations earlier this year.

The 2008 farm bill includes 37 programs that are no longer receiving mandatory funding, and to continue them, Congress would have have to find money from other programs to pay their costs, according to the Congressional Research Service. Among those are a handful of newer disaster relief programs designed to help minimize the losses farmers and ranchers suffer as a result of drought and other disasters.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is sponsoring legislation that would retroactively restore those disaster relief programs for 2012 fiscal year as well as the rest of the 2013 fiscal year while Congress works on creating another long-term farm bill.

"These livestock disaster programs expired in September 2011, leaving our livestock producers with no safety net," Baucus said in introducing his bill "For over a year and a half, through one of the worst droughts in recent memory, our producers have been left to fend for themselves."

In addition to helping to pay for dead livestock, the legislation also provides disaster relief for things like destroyed orchard trees and vines, and it helps cover losses not covered by crop insurance.

There are five disaster programs -- all created in the 2008 farm bill -- that are among the 37 programs that are missing out on funding. Because Congress hasn't re-authorized them, losses due to disasters that occurred after September 2011 aren't covered until those programs, which have now expired.

Programs like federal crop insurance and emergency disaster loans remain on the books.

Some of those 37 programs also pay for things like rural development, which has caused groups like the National Association of Counties to take an interest in seeing funding restored.

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