Senators split on impact from proposed livestock assistanceAs Congress squabbles over what to include in a new farm bill, South Dakota’s senators have opposing views of a U.S. House proposal to provide some immediate relief to drought-stricken ranchers.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
As Congress squabbles over what to include in a new farm bill, South Dakota’s senators have opposing views of a U.S. House proposal to provide some immediate relief to drought-stricken ranchers.
Calling the standalone livestock disaster measure “a fig-leaf approach,” Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said the House should instead pass the version of the farm bill passed by the Senate over a month ago.
“The House needs to follow the lead of the Senate and pass the reauthorization, which pays for livestock disaster programs while still cutting $23 billion from the deficit,” Johnson said Wednesday. “The House needs to stop dithering and pass a good farm bill.”
The proposal comes as House Republicans feel pressure to do something for drought-hit farmers and ranchers before Congress begins its summer recess, The Associated Press reports.
Johnson said he worries that putting a disaster relief program in place would remove the sense of urgency to pass an entire farm bill, increasing the odds that agriculture policy is added to the list of programs placed in limbo through temporary extensions.
The new disaster relief would revive programs included in the 2008 farm bill that expired last year. They affect cattle, pork and other livestock producers who generally do not participate in the federally subsidized insurance programs that will partially shield corn, soybean and other crop producers from drought damage. Growers of some specialty crops like cherries and nursery plants also stand to win relief, the AP reports.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said he favors the House plan, adding he does not share Johnson’s concern that passing a livestock disaster bill would derail the entire farm bill.
“I would hope folks recognize the need that’s out there. ... This is a real near-term issue we need to deal with. We should not leave town without dealing with the drought,” Thune said, referring to Congress’ tradition of an August recess. “I hope we can find the votes to get us on the path towards a new five-year farm bill authorization, which ultimately we are going to have to do. We’ve got to provide certainty for producers in this country.”
The $380 million in assistance that Thune says is included would be paid for by cutting other spending, he said. Johnson complained the hit would be taken by conservation programs.
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., supports passing a standalone livestock disaster bill.
“Getting these livestock disaster programs renewed quickly is critically important for the producers who are really hurting right now because of this drought. We must also take action on the farm bill, which is something I m continuing to fight for,” said Noem in a written statement.
Noem introduced the Livestock Disaster Protection Act in April, which would extend the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill for five years and cover the current fiscal year.
House Republicans plan to bring the measure to the floor under expedited procedures that require a two-thirds vote for passage, the AP reports. Rep. Collin Peterson, DMinn., whose support is crucial, said he’s undecided whether he’ll vote for the measure and also is not pleased about potential cuts to conservation programs.
“I’m not wild about that,” said Peterson, who is the senior Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. “I’m going to withhold judgment until I see what they’ve got.”