Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
President Signs Emergency Farm Aid Bill
Washington, D.C. — After a nine-day delay, President Clinton today signed the agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 1906) which contains $8.7 billion in emergency farm aid for income and disaster assistance and is designed to expedite delivery of the funds to producers.
"I'm glad the president signed this important bill, though I don't understand why he delayed for so long," said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX). "If he had signed it earlier, farmers could be getting their checks in the coming week."
In addition to emergency aid, the bill allows producers to collect their anticipated yearly transition payment immediately, in essence doubling the amount of cash infusion into rural areas at a time when severe weather has destroyed harvests and poor market prices have severely diminished the value of crops that do survive.
"While it won't solve all the problems facing American producers, this assistance will allow them to make it through this harvest and plant next year," Combest said. "With the House passage and progress of expanded crop insurance legislation and my agenda for reviewing farm policy early next year, we will also be laying the groundwork for addressing the future needs of farmers and ranchers."
The emergency assistance within H.R. 1906 (FY 2000 Agriculture Appropriations) includes:
* Market loss payments of $5.544 billion
* Oilseed assistance providing $475 million in direct payments
* Production loss payments of $1.2 billion for 1999 crop and livestock weather losses
* Crop insurance premium discount of 30 percent continued in the 2000 crop year
* Cotton Step 2 replenishment
* Increasing payment limitation for Loan Deficiency Payments (LDP's) and Marketing Loan Gains (MLG's) from $75,000 to $150,000
* Livestock assistance totaling $200 million
* Dairy assistance of $125 million
* Extension of the Dairy Price Support Program and suspension of Recourse Loan
* Peanut market assistance to quota/non-quota producers equal to 5 percent of loan
* Suspension of the assessment on sugar producers
* Assistance to tobacco farmers in the form of $328 million in direct payments
* Mandatory livestock price reporting
* $56 million for staffing needs at the Farm Service Agency using unspent USDA accounts