Congress Aids Producers, Lifts LDP Limits, Opens Cuba Trade
Congressional action this week on the Agricultural Appropriations bill will help farmers and producers of livestock and dairy who are suffering another year of weather and financial losses, including an additional provision that lifts limits to $150,000 this crop year on Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs) and provides the first move to re-opening for agricultural trade into Cuba. By a 340 to 75 vote, this date, the House approved H.R. 4461, the Agricultural Appropriations Act, [UPDATES: Senate approved with a vote of 86 to 8 on October 18. The president signed the bill on Saturday, October 28].
Producers suffering a series of harvest losses due to weather extremes will be able to draw upon funding that provides as much help as possible, by providing upwards of $1.6 billion for crops — beyond USDA's recent $1.3 billion estimate.
"There is ample funding for the Secretary of Agriculture to take into account the full load of weather and financial burdens weighing heavily against the producer," said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-Texas). "Congress has the track record of standing shoulder to shoulder with farmers, with proven action this year expanding insurance coverage to crops and livestock, and initiating early farm policy discussions with producers. The only policy the president offers imposes impractical income limitations that leave a producer at the end of the turn row without a plow."
In May, the Clinton Administration suggested a temporary assistance plan with a payment limitation that would have excluded several thousand producers. Earlier this year, Combest convened an unprecedented series of farm policy field hearings with producers in rural communities who praised current farm bill planting flexibility and agreed with the Ag Committee on strengthening the safety net weaknesses in the current farm bill.
The Agriculture Appropriations bill increases the limitation on a producer's LDP to $150,000 for the current crop year because low crop prices under the previous $75,000 level unrealistically reduced the safety net payment for many producers. The legislation also lifts the ban on food and medicine exports to Cuba, providing sales to Cuba on a cash-only basis.
In addition to the $1.6 billion for nationwide crop loss from drought and floods:
livestock producers will be able to draw upon $450 million for loss of pasture and feed sources due to drought, fire or flooding conditions.
dairy farmers will have $500 million available due to continued historically low prices