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Bill would speed farm disaster payments

Agriculture.com Staff 07/11/2008 @ 11:40am

Late on Thursday, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced a bill (S. 3251) which would ensure eligible farmers suffering crop losses would receive advance disaster payments from USDA in the calendar year crop losses occur.

Grassley, Thune and other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee successfully fought to include permanent disaster legislation, the Supplemental Revenue (SURE) Assistance Program, in the 2008 farm bill.

"When the Finance Committee wrote the Disaster Trust Fund provision, it was always our intent that USDA would be able to give advance payments. It's hard to believe that USDA wouldn't use the discretion we gave them to help out farmers when they need it most. I know it's a little more work to make advance payments, but that's no excuse to leave farmers hanging who just had their homes and their livelihoods washed away by floods," Grassley said.

"USDA officials have publicly stated that USDA does not have authority to issue advance disaster payments, and they have also said that USDA is not in any hurry to begin drafting rules for the permanent disaster program," said Thune. "I strongly disagree and am taking no chances by introducing this bill today which specifically authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to issue advance SURE disaster payments no later than December 31 of the year the disaster losses occurred. With skyrocketing chemical fertilizer, fuel, and other input costs resulting in record operating expenses, farmers should not have to wait until late 2009 for disaster assistance for 2008 crop disaster losses."

In addition to authorizing advance disaster payments, the bill also includes language that requires USDA to draft and publish regulations governing the 2008 farm bill authorized permanent disaster programs no later than November 15, 2008.

Under this legislation, the Secretary would be able to issue advance crop disaster payments of no less than 50% of projected final SURE payments. The remainder of the disaster payments would be issued once final crop losses are determined.

Late on Thursday, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced a bill (S. 3251) which would ensure eligible farmers suffering crop losses would receive advance disaster payments from USDA in the calendar year crop losses occur.

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