News Disaster Package Brings Relief To Farms Hit By Ivan

Disaster Package Brings Relief To Farms Hit By Ivan

Disaster Package Brings Relief To Farms Hit By Ivan
November 30, 2004 |

Help is on the way for Alabama farmers who suffered
losses due to Hurricane Ivan, thanks to a
$14 billion disaster package that was passed by
Congress and signed by President Bush in late October.In a rare weekend session, Congress completed
work on the supplemental bill, which contained $2.9
billion for farmers who had experienced weather-related
losses in either 2003 or 2004.”Thanks to efforts in part from the Alabama delegation
and particularly Sen. (Richard) Shelby, a member
of the conference committee, we were pleased that
several provisions were added that would aid Alabama
farmers specifically,” said Alabama Farmers
Federation President Jerry Newby. “These include $8.5
million for farmers in the pecan industry to help cover
costs for pruning, rehabilitation and replanting. The
bill also contains $10 million for private forest
landowners in declared disaster areas to help pay for
debris removal, reseeding and replanting of timber.
There also is a $10 million program for cottonseed loss
assistance in counties that were covered by a presidential
disaster declaration.”The bill had been attached to the Department of
Homeland Security Bill and later was attached to the
Military Construction Bill in an effort to speed action
on the measure and get President Bush’s signature.
The House passed the bill early in the weekend session,
and the Senate approved the legislation the following
Monday after a protracted delay by Sen. Tom
Harkin (D-Iowa) who opposed how the drought aid
was paid for by spending cuts in the Farm Bill.The bill specifically contains $150 million for the
Emergency Conservation Program for clean up and
rehabilitation of farmland and pasture damaged by the
hurricane; $9 million for oyster bed reseeding and
rehabilitation of the Gulf Coast; $25 million for rural
housing assistance grants and housing repair loans by
USDA, and $68 million for the Rural Community
Advancement Program of which $50 million will be
available for water and waste disposal grants.Payments will be available to farmers that experienced
weather-related losses in either 2003 or 2004.
Farmers are eligible for a supplemental payment that
would cover quality and quantity losses and benefits
are limited to 95 percent of what the crop would have
been worth absent the disaster. Additionally, there is
an $80,000 payment limit per person or entity, and a
means test of $2.5 million overall for persons engaged
in agriculture production. The payment rate is 65 percent
of the covered crop insurance price or 65 percent
of the state average price if crop insurance was not
available. If the producer was eligible to purchase crop
insurance for the crop and failed to do so, he can
receive a payment at 60 percent of the crop insurance
policy price, and will be required to purchase crop
insurance for the next two years.The supplemental spending bill that contained the
hurricane aid did not contain spending offsets, but the
drought aid was offset by capping the Conservation
Security Program (CSP) at $6 billion. Currently the
CSP program is an uncapped entitlement, and its estimated
10-year cost is $9 billion. This cap is not
expected to decrease producer participation.The Federation had worked with other agriculture
groups to insist that the Farm Bill not be reopened to
pay for the drought aid, and the cuts to the CSP will
be addressed when the Farm Bill is reauthorized in
2007. USDA will be implementing these regulations
for this disaster aid in the next 30-60 days.Preliminary figures indicated that Hurricane Ivan
cost Alabama farmers more than $866 million. The
state’s timber industry was the hardest hit with the
value of downed timber estimated at $700 million.
Damage to the state’s cotton crop was expected to
exceed $127 million. Cotton, soybeans, peanuts,
pecans and nursery crops also were affected.

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