WASHINGTON, D.C. — As thousands of farmers and ranchers face economic ruin due to adverse weather conditions and low crop prices, the House of Representatives passed farm disaster relief legislation included in the Agricultural Appropriations Act by a veto-proof margin of 333-53 taking another step to alleviate the crisis currently facing American farmers and ranchers.
"Our farmers and ranchers are facing some of the most difficult times ever and the President has done nothing to help them whatsoever," Smith said. "He refuses to lead on trade, he hasn't used the Conservation Reserve Program and he just threw away $150 million from the Export Enhancement Program. If he vetoes this bill he will go down in history as one of the most anti-farmer presidents in history."
The package introduced today includes $2.25 billion in total funding to address crop disaster losses, divided into three parts:
$1.5 billion to assist producers who have been hit by crop losses in 1998.
An additional $675 million to provide assistance to producers who have suffered multiple-year crop losses, especially those farmers in the Upper Midwest battling wheat scab and multi-year flooding.
$175 million for livestock feed assistance in a cost-share program available to livestock producers who lost their 1998 feed supplies to disaster.
The relief package also contains $1.65 billion in aid to farmers eligible for Freedom to Farm contracts to assist them in dealing with the loss of markets and the Administration's inability to keep foreign markets open for our farmers. This assistance will come in the form of one-time payments similar to the Agricultural Marketing Transition (AMTA) payments under the Farm Bill. While the damage done by the Administration's neglect of agricultural trade cannot be fully offset, this assistance will help farmers make it through this temporary market downturn.
"You can tell by the vote today that this bill has broad bipartisan support. Those of us in Congress who know farmers and ranchers, work with them, and represent them understand that this is not a time to play politics with their livelihoods," Smith said. "We need to take decisive action before it's too late. This bill does that, and I expect that the President will sign it, despite his earlier threats."
This legislation follows on the heels of the Emergency Farm Financial Relief Act which was signed into law on August 13. That legislation allows farmers the option of receiving all of the Agriculture Market Transition Act (AMTA) contract payments for FY 1999 immediately after the beginning of the fiscal year. Annual payments are normally made twice a year, in December or January and again in September. The bill makes $5.5 billion available as much as one year early to help farmers cope with the cash shortage they are now experiencing due to low prices. The bill leaves the option of early payments with the farmer who can then make the decision on the basis of personal circumstances.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District — which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon — in the U.S. House of Representatives.