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Farm disaster aid package blocked in U.S. Senate

October 7, 2008

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said the United States Senate delayed passage of an emergency disaster aid bill that would have provided $1.1 billion in aid for farmers in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas and other areas affected by the natural disasters of 2008.
Strain said Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was the only Senator to object to Landrieu’s bill and blocked the vote.
“Oklahoma farmers would benefit from Senator Landrieu’s bill but Senator Coburn blocked the passage,” Strain said. “Senator Coburn said the 2008 Farm Bill disaster program would take care of the farmers.”
Strain said the Farm Bill inadequately provides for Louisiana’s farmers.
“The disaster assistance rules of the Farm Bill are yet to be written and will not get money in the hands of Louisiana farmers quickly enough,” Strain said. “Gustav and Ike hit at harvest time, the worst case scenario for most of our farmers. They have no money coming in. They’ll be strapped to honor their grain contracts and monetary commitments.
“I spent two weeks in Washington, D.C., lobbying on behalf of Louisiana farmers hurt by hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Senators Mary Landrieu, David Vitter and our congressional delegation lined up the support of other states with severe agricultural losses caused by hurricanes, tropical storms, drought, tornadoes and floods that occurred earlier this year.
“I was optimistic the aid bill would pass but it looks like we’ll have to wait for the lame duck session after the presidential election or 2009 when the new administration comes in before we can hope to get help for our farmers.”
Strain said he would continue to work with Louisiana’s congressional delegation to get hurricane disaster relief for state farmers.
“The agricultural losses from Gustav and Ike are unprecedented,” Strain said. “We have more than a $950 million loss but our farmers can’t wait until 2009 to get help. We have to get money in their hands so they can prepare for next year’s crop as soon as possible. Our state economy depends on it.” 
Strain said Senator Landrieu’s bill was cosponsored by Sens. Thad Cochran, Miss., Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas, Blanche Lincoln, Ark., Mark Pryor, Ark., David Vitter, La., and Roger Wicker, Miss.