Friday, June 23, 2006

Senate Makes One More Push For Agriculture Disaster Assistance

Senate appropriators successfully attached $4.2 billion of emergency agriculture assistance to the Fiscal Year 2007 Agriculture spending bill, despite repeated threats from the Bush Administration and House Republicans to strip the language. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) offered the same agriculture assistance package that was attached to the FY06 war supplemental appropriations bill and eventually cut-out in conference. Although the committee approved the amendment by voice vote, Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Budget Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) went on record against the measure.

Dorgan also secured another amendment that would license farmers to travel to Cuba to sell their products. A general license would allow farmers and exporters to travel to Cuba to promote farm sales as easily as journalists, official government travelers, and academics. Right now, farmers and ag exporters need to apply for specific licenses that are granted on a case-by-case basis and can often take several months to process. President Bush has issued numerous veto threats in the past on this issue.

While these amendments are good news for our farmers, they one again face stiff opposition from the Administration and Republican leaders in Congress. As long as the President continues to issue veto threats against agriculture interests, it is likely Republican leaders will back down and remove these important provisions before the bill is signed into law.