Washington, D.C. — After months of requests for an Administration proposal to alleviate the current farm crisis, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman today presented general guidelines to the House Agriculture Committee, but failed to provide the necessary details and funding estimates that would contribute meaningfully to Congressional efforts.
"We, in Congress, could develop an economic assistance program to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers and present it to the president for his signature. But frankly, we learned our lesson last year," House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) said. "In the absence of any input from the Administration, Congress developed a package in 1998 to help producers in need, and that plan received a veto. Then, when we did enact a bill, it was more than 8 months before producers suffering disasters saw any results."
With regard to the current farm crisis, Secretary Glickman stated the Administration's support for:
* Emergency livestock assistance — no cost estimate
* Emergency Farm Income Support to mitigate low prices — no cost estimate
* Payments to small and medium-sized hog operations — no cost estimate
* A single-year disaster assistance program -- estimated to cost between $800 million and $1.2 billion.
"I'm pleased the Administration has offered a proposal that attempts to address the current agricultural disaster, while looking ahead to strengthening the nation's agricultural safety net," said Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX). "It is critical that Congress and the Administration work together to get emergency assistance out to our producers as soon as possible."
"I can't help but be disappointed in the Secretary's lack of specifics for addressing the farm crisis," Combest said. "Congress put the Administration on notice five months ago that we would be looking into emergency aid, and with their vast resources, they still haven't submitted a concrete plan with funding levels and delivery options. With harvest approaching, it seems to me that Congress is going to have to go it alone for the second year in row."
Today's hearing was the second in as many days addressing the crisis facing America's farmers and ranchers. Yesterday, representatives from major commodity and producer associations appeared before the Committee to review difficulties facing their constituents and suggest ways that Congress could help alleviate the current crisis.