Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Berry: Farmers Unfairly Left Behind in Emergency Supplemental

The House approved the $94.5 billion emergency supplemental spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Gulf Coast Recovery today. The final version provides just $500 million for emergency agriculture disaster assistance, instead of the $3.9 billion proposed by the U.S. Senate. The $500 million in assistance will go only to Gulf Coast farmers directly impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As a result, Arkansas farmers will not receive the critical assistance they desperately need after the 2005 crop year.

While this emergency spending bill funds many important priorities, it neglects thousands of farmers across rural America who may have no other choice but to go out of business. The 2005 crop year was exceptionally difficult, hitting farmers with severe drought, high input costs, and one major storm after the next. I am appalled that our Republican leaders in Washington continue to ignore this fact, pretending that hard times are confined to the Gulf Coast region. Our farmers are no strangers to hardship, and deserve better leadership in Washington.

My rural colleagues and I worked hard to secure agriculture disaster assistance. We introduced legislation, offered amendments, and wrote repeated letters to the President and the Secretary of Agriculture. We gave this movement a voice, but unfortunately, could not overcome the hard anti-agriculture stance of this Administration. I only hope farmers across the country hear this message, and return to the voting booth this Fall to support leaders who understand the priorities of rural America.