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Pelosi promises disaster aid at Farmers Union meeting

Agriculture.com Staff 03/03/2007 @ 11:40am

ORLANDO, Florida -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a standing ovation from members of the National Farmers Union Friday when she announced that a funding bill for the Iraq war will include money for disaster aid for farmers hit by drought in 2005 or 2006.

"I am proud to announce this evening that disaster assistance will be included in our supplemental appropriations," Pelosi said.

Pelosi did not say how much money would be in the bill for farmers, but Representative Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat who heads the House Agriculture Committee, has said earlier that he expects about $3 billion. That's less similar legislation in the Senate and Peterson has said that there would be funds to assist farmers for only one year of disaster. The money would also be available to help ranchers hit hard by winter storms in the Great Plains late last year and California produce growers hit by a freeze in January of this year, Peterson has said.

Peterson was also at the Farmers Union meeting Friday. He said he expects a decision from House leadership in the next few days.

Pelosi also said passage of disaster aid by Congress isn't a guarantee of help. She reminded Farmers Union members that the House came close to voting on the issue last fall before the Congressional election. But at that time President George W. Bush had threatened to veto a disaster aid bill.

"Even when we pass a bill, our work will not be done," Pelosi said. "We need your help with the executive branch."

Pelosi also promised that Congress would do more to support biofuels and that in the new farm bill "we will have a different approach than in the past."

She said that some of the $14 billion in tax cuts for the oil industry that the new Congress repealed in its first 100 hours will go toward research on cellulosic energy. Pelosi said Congress would do more to support E-85, partly by providing more tax breaks for gas stations that install E-85 pumps.

As new energy policies take effect, "we will be sending our energy dollars to the Midwest, not the Middle East," she said.

Although the farm bill and new tax laws may bring change to agriculture and renewable fuel production, it may not change commodity price supports much.

Earlier on Friday, Representative Peterson said spending projections for the farm bill include increases for conservation programs and food stamps, but not for price supports, which are projected to be much less if current high prices continue.

"I think the commodity title [of the farm bill] is going to look a lot like it is now," Peterson told Agriculture Online. "In fact, it could look exactly like it is now."

Many farmers like the current commodity program and are not calling for change," he said.

ORLANDO, Florida -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a standing ovation from members of the National Farmers Union Friday when she announced that a funding bill for the Iraq war will include money for disaster aid for farmers hit by drought in 2005 or 2006.

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