Additional ag funding gets nod in Senate

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WASHINGTON – The Senate Ag Committee took things down to the wire Friday, Aug. 3.

Failing to get the needed 60 votes to end debate and move to its Agriculture Committee’s $7.4 billion bailout bill for farmers, Senators went ahead and approved the House-approved $5.5 billion version.

Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said another attempt would be made after Labor Day to funnel the remaining $2 billion or so into farmers’ pockets as well.

It’s now up to President Bush to sign the bill, which he is expected to do.

The bill includes funds for supplemental AMTA payments totaling $4.622 million. Oilseeds will get $423 million, and the balance goes to cottonseeds and peanuts.

Corn producers can expect to receive aid at approximately 31 cents per bushel of corn and oilseed payments at about 85 percent of last year’s level of payments, the National Corn Growers Association said.

Specialty crops ignored. Agriculture groups spent the week urging the Senate Agriculture Committee to hold the line with a $5.5 billion emergency aid package for program crops and oilseeds.

“The implicit message: Let the specialty crops find their funds elsewhere, and let’s get a fiscal 2001 economic aid package to the President for his signature,” the corn growers’ association said.

“Family farmers have been waiting for the Senate to take action on the bill and it’s unfortunate that they had to wait until the last minute,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. “There was no reason for the agriculture committee to let this bill languish for so long.

Grassley said that while the House version isn’t perfect, “it’s much better than losing the payments altogether, and unfortunately that was the direction we were being led.”

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee, said, “This is a bill the president can sign immediately and the money can get to farmers quickly.”

“We were in a position that if we did not take action now, it was very conceivable that the money that was destined for American farmers might not have been there either,” Lugar said.

However, Defenders of Wildlife claims the Senate “yielded to pressure from the White House and Senate Republican leadership to strip vital conservation programs from a major agriculture supplemental spending bill.”

That “gives the bum’s rush to stewardship-minded farmers across the country,” according to Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen.

After losing the vote to stop senators from filibustering, Senate leaders accepted the House version of the bill without the conservation money.

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