Boehner Pledges Action on U.S. Drought

July 24, 2012 06:51 AM

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House Speaker confirms signals from other GOP House leaders.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) today said GOP leaders are working with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and other panel members on the ongoing drought disaster gripping the majority of the nation. "We understand the emergency that exists in rural America. And we will address it as soon as possible," Boehner said.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday suggested drought aid was a possibility. McCarthy, who represents an agriculture-heavy district, said Congress could move legislation to help farmers stricken by the drought. "If there's something because the drought is greater today that we have to take up in the process, we will try to deal with that even by itself," McCarthy said.

Boehner last week said that crop insurance should be sufficient to cover farmers' needs this year, but key disaster aid programs for livestock producers have expired. Also, language in USDA's Fiscal Year 2012 budget bars the agency from providing aid through a program (Section 32) that the department has used in the past to aid livestock operations for weather-related losses.

The pending House and Senate-passed farm bills include livestock disaster aid programs that would be retroactive to this year. Separate bills have been introduced in the Senate and the House regarding those programs, but they also include an extension of the controversial Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE) that would be another crop disaster aid program for crop producers who already have funding for crop and revenue assurance programs. The SURE program had a separate $100,000 pay cap when it was available. CBO in the past has projected SURE costs at around $1 billion per year. It was not part of the Senate-passed bill, nor the farm bill that passed the House Ag Committee.


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