Power Hour: Disaster Aid Rumors Ripple Through Plains

12:00PM May 09, 2014
BT Rotator Texas Cattle Drought 2
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A federal disaster bill for agriculture likely will be adopted this summer to address persistent drought, though its scope and obstacles to approval are unclear, says Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer Washington insider. Help also is likely for hog producers reeling from porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).

"This is a year that’s an election year, and I would say that on the Senate, almost for sure there’s the will there" for drought-related disaster assistance, he tells AgriTalk radio. "The hurdle will be in the House. But you know, if I had to bet, and I do, I would think that there will probably be some type of disaster funding to help out not just California, but … Oklahoma and Texas and other states."

The possibility of drought aid first arose when Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both of California, suggested $300 million for their state, Wiesemeyer explains. Cattle and dairy producers are experiencing livestock numbers at 1951 levels and rising feed costs, while rice producers and other crop growers face a dearth of water. "That’s when Farm Bureau and others said, ‘Wait a minute, what about Oklahoma, what about Texas?’"

The timing of disaster assistance is uncertain because of the upcoming mid-term elections, Wiesemeyer explains. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in "retention mode," he adds, meaning Reid is focused on holding onto as many Democratic senators as possible who are up for reelection.

"I think that it’ll be probably before the August recess, but it could take that long. But it could be leverage," Wiesemeyer says. "The hurdle will be in the House, but boy, with the drought clearly showing—you can look at the map, as you well have seen, on California and Oklahoma. … I think the momentum is going to grow, but regretfully in this town it’ll come later rather than sooner."

For hog producers experiencing PEDv, it’s possible aid could arrive more quickly. Already, Wiesemeyer points out, the White House has been talking to hog industry lobbyists. For some, the gross dairy margin program is increasingly looking like a good deal because it accounts for the price of corn, a major feedstock for hogs.

"I think they’re going to uncork about $20 million to $30 million or so of emergency money for PEDv assistance," he predicts. "Some hog producers are concerned, however, about what stipulations that may carry. But I think you’re going to see that in the next few weeks."

Click the play button below to hear the complete interview with Wiesemeyer, including his prediction about the final Renewable Fuel Standard recommendation, beginning at the 31-minute mark:

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