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Grassley supports advances on disaster payments

Agriculture.com Staff 07/01/2008 @ 3:47pm

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Tuesday that he supports an idea offered last week by his Iowa colleague, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, to pass legislation that would allow the USDA to make advance payments on a new disaster program in the new farm law.

Harkin has said he favors allowing farmers affected by disasters to receive a portion of their payments early. The way the program is written in the farm bill, USDA has to determine the market value of affected crops by using the marketing year prices in the year after they're harvested, which would push payments well into 2009. Unless a farm has more than a 50% loss, it also has to be in or next to a county that’s declared a disaster by the Agriculture Secretary.

Grassley said he agrees with Harkin that it would be good to get a partial payment out sooner.

"I would support it...I brought it up with the Secretary of Agriculture last week when he was in my office for a half-hour discussion of various issues,” Grassley told Agriculture Online.

Grassley said that Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer pointed out the difficulties in determining how much of a disaster payment farmers might get very far in advance.

"Like Senator Harkain, I would like to see an advance payment like we used to do advance deficiency payments," Grassley said. Schafer reminded Grassley that in the past, some producers wound up owing USDA refunds on part of their advance payments, which were often deducted from the next year's payment. Grassley acknowledges making any advanced disaster payments is "not a simple thing."

Grassley said he also discussed his desire to release all CRP land in Iowa for haying and grazing, as well as releasing non-erodible CRP land for early release from the program for cropping. But Schafer made no commitment for or against those changes in CRP, Grassley said.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Tuesday that he supports an idea offered last week by his Iowa colleague, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, to pass legislation that would allow the USDA to make advance payments on a new disaster program in the new farm law.

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