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Speaker Gingrich, Chairman Smith, Farm State Legislators Unveil $3.9 Billion Farm Relief Package

As thousands of farmers and ranchers face economic ruin due to adverse weather conditions and low crop prices, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and House Agriculture Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR) joined farm state legislators today to unveil a farm relief legislative package that will help alleviate the crisis currently facing American farmers and ranchers.

"American farmers and ranchers are facing the hardest times they have in years and the President has shown a complete lack of leadership in helping them," Smith said. "The Administration has the authority to assist them with the Conservation Reserve Program and the Export Enhancement Program, but has completely failed to put forth a relief plan. We have to act now, and this package will help those farmers and ranchers who have lost crops due to adverse weather and those who have lost their markets abroad."

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.

$75 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.

On September 11, Chairman Smith and 22 Republican farm state legislators wrote to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-TX) urging him to include provisions vital to U.S. farmers and ranchers in his tax relief package. The tax relief package introduced by Chairman Archer includes:

Expediting the expanded health insurance deduction to make 100% deductibility effective immediately for U.S. farmers and ranchers -- average savings of $382/person.

Immediate $25,000 per small business expensing deduction — average savings of $1700/family farm.

Permanent income averaging for farm income — total savings to U.S. agriculture of $50 million/year.

Accelerating death tax relief immediately for 100% of the $1 million death tax credit — annual savings for U.S. agriculture of $150 million/year.

Increasing the net operating carry back period for farmers — benefiting 100,000 family farmers.

"Many farmers and ranchers struggle each year to keep their heads above water and they are particularly hard hit by taxes which take away any profits they do make," Smith said. "It's vital that we pass this disaster and tax relief package to protect the future of our agricultural producers."

Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District — which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon — in the U.S. House of Representatives.