By Brittany Jablonsky, NFU government relations representative

Although NFU members have been feeling the effects of the drought all summer, it has only begun making headlines this week in the wake of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) heavy focus on emergency outreach. More than 1,200 counties in 29 states have been granted a disaster declaration as a result of the drought; however, USDA’s ability to provide assistance to farmers in these counties is limited because of the expiration of permanent disaster programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.

The 2008 Farm Bill, which created the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and other similar programs, was designed to provide emergency assistance to farmers and ranchers without the need for Congress to pass ad hoc disaster aid legislation. In order to save money when writing the farm bill, Congress gave these programs an early expiration date, Sept. 2011 versus Sept. 2012 for many of the remaining provisions, leaving producers facing drought-related losses this summer “high and dry,” in every sense.

The NFU board of directors met this week in Gig Harbor, Wash. and passed a resolution endorsing S. 3384, legislation sponsored by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., which would extend the permanent disaster programs for one year. This will provide certainty for U.S. farmers and ranchers while Congress works to pass the next farm bill before current legislation expires on Sept. 30, 2012. Read NFU’s press release on the resolution here.

NFU appreciates the swift efforts by the USDA to provide low-interest emergency loans to farmers in need and urges immediate passage of S. 3384 to help farmers and ranchers get through these tough times.

More information and updates on USDA’s disaster assistance efforts can be found at www.usda.gov/disaster or USDA’s Drought page.

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