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Disaster relief plan for farmers approved by Congress, President Obama

February 17, 2009

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., praised the Louisiana Congressional delegation and singled out Senator Mary Landrieu for her effort to secure as much as $752 million in relief money for farmers affected by the natural disasters of 2008.
The measure will apply mainly to farmers in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Iowa, Illinois and Arkansas. Also included in the language is $50 million in aid for aquaculture producers affected by natural disasters.
“With the help of many others in Congress, Senator Mary Landrieu put together a package that will help the Louisiana farmers affected by hurricanes Gustav and Ike, the Midwest farmers that were devastated by floods and the Texas and Oklahoma ranchers and foresters that were hit with drought and wildfire,” Strain said. “Senator Landrieu started working on this bill after Gustav blew through the state and we’re grateful she kept the farmers at the forefront in Congress.”
Strain also cited Representative Charlie Melancon for his work to further the farm disaster aid package.

“Representative Melancon and the rest of our congressmen played an integral role in getting this help for our farmers,” Strain said.     

Landrieu attached the measure to the economic stimulus bill that was signed by President Barack Obama today.

“For months our Louisiana farmers have struggled to rebuild their lives in the wake of hurricanes Gustav and Ike,” Landrieu said. “The economic recovery bill signed into law today means help is on the way. This is an important step to recovery for our farming communities who have been hard hit by disasters.”

Strain said he expected Louisiana farmers to receive as much as $200 million in aid.

Landrieu’s bill provides agricultural relief funds to farmers who have paid administrative fees qualifying them for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program (SURE).

SURE is the agricultural disaster relief program that was created by the 2008 Farm Bill, but SURE coverage rules were not written in time for the Louisiana harvest due to late Congressional approval of the final Farm Bill.

Strain said the devastation caused by the 2008 hurricane season should qualify many Louisiana farmers for an indemnity and urged farmers to contact their local Farm Services Agency.

Strain also lauded the expertise from LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson and Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation President Ronnie Anderson.

"Dr. Richardson’s team put together the estimated crop loss figures quickly and efficiently,” Strain said. “The Farm Bureau helped us track the progress of the bill and paired us up with the power brokers of Congress.”
Strain also renewed his call to reform crop insurance plans for Louisiana farmers.

“We have to find a way for Louisiana farmers to be able to equitably insure a larger value percentage of their farms,” Strain said. “You wouldn’t insure half of your house, but farmers, if they want to buy crop insurance, can’t get enough coverage to make it worth their while.

“You can’t even get crop insurance for sweet potatoes in every parish, and we lost more than 75 percent of that crop. 

“These are the agricultural issues that need to be addressed as the new provisions for crop insurance plans are being written into the Farm Bill.