During the week of April 3, the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), passed agricultural disaster legislation as part of the Supplemental Appropriations bill. The full Senate is expected to take up the legislation later this month. If the full Senate passes the measure it would then go to a Conference Committee with the House of Represenatatives, which already has passed it's version of the bill. The House bill does not contain any agricultural disaster langauge in it's bill.
The legislation provides crop production loss assistance in a manner similar to previous disaster programs for the 2005 crop year due to weather and 2006 for producers who were affected by floods in California and Hawaii prior to the date of enactment. The loss threshold for eligibility is 35 percent and the payment rate is set at 50 percent of the established price for the crop. Unlike recent agricultural disaster programs, the 95 percent crop value cap and deduction for crop insurance indemnities have been removed.
Quality loss assistance is based on the actual, local market discounts suffered by producers based on their crop sales receipts or as established by the State Farm Services Agency (FSA) Committee. Payments are to be made on 65 percent of the crop quantity subject to quality discounts at a payment rate equal to 50 percent of the market loss sustained by the producer. It provides assistance to specialty crop, nursery crop, dairy and cottonseed producers in hurricane affected counties.
In addition to any production loss payment a producer may be eligible for, all producers of program crops will receive a supplemental direct payment equal to 30 percent of the direct payment paid for the 2005 crop under the provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill.
The bill also includes funds for FSA to hire additional county office employees to implement the disaster program.