Chairman Frank Lucas issued the following statement after the four principals met today to discuss outstanding issues relating to the farm bill.
Combest Criticizes Administration For Not Using Current Authority Effectively To Assist Farmers Plagued By Drought
Washington, D.C. — Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX), sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman criticizing the Administration for not effectively utilizing the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) to help drought stricken farmers and requested that the Administration submit to Congress an official recommendation addressing the farm crisis.
The complete text of the letter is available upon request.
American farmers and ranchers are in the midst of the second year of the worst farm crisis in recent memory caused by weather problems and low commodity prices. The vast resources of the Department of Agriculture put it in the best position to provide a national assessment of the disaster and to outline specific proposals on how to best help farmers through this difficult period. Nevertheless, the Administration has completely failed to submit a formal recommendation to Congress, and has instead relied on vague public statements decrying the farm crisis.
Referring to an August 9 television appearance when Glickman expressed the need to provide ad hoc disaster assistance to producers of non-insurable crops, Combest wrote:
"What is less clear is why the Department of Agriculture is not effectively using the current Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, also known as NAP, that was designed by your own Administration to meet these very needs. In fact, producers whose noninsured crops have been damaged by drought should be able to apply right now and receive immediate assistance under NAP."
NAP was created in 1994 upon request by the Clinton Administration, and Congress intentionally reserved many of its implementation guidelines for the regulatory process to provide important flexibility in dealing with varying circumstances.
"More than five years after receiving the broad authority this Administration requested from Congress, it is my considered opinion that it is about time for the Department to effectively use that authority to provide timely and much-needed disaster relief to the farmers referred to in your interview with the Today Show," Combest wrote.
"Mr. Secretary, I can see no reason why you need to wait for action from Congress to receive authority you already have. If, on the other hand, the problem lies with how NAP has been implemented rather than authority, only you can address it."
"Looking ahead, the Administration still has an opportunity to provide meaningful recommendations to the House Agriculture Committee so the Committee might be better positioned to make recommendations when the FY2000 Agriculture Appropriations Bill goes to conference," Combest wrote. "Specifically, I would like to renew our invitation of July 1, 1999 for the Administration to make a contribution in this process by submitting its official recommendations for an emergency relief package