The House is expected Thursday to address disaster assistance legislation by itself after scheduled attempts by the House Rules Committee to address a Farm Bill extension plus assistance were foiled Tuesday evening.
Farm groups largely opposed the proposed Farm Bill extension, but agree that some form of assistance is necessary, remaining steadfast in support for a five-year Farm Bill.
Proposed disaster legislation, dubbed the "Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012," re-authorizes the following: Livestock Indemnity Payments; the Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish; and the Tree Assistance Program.
Attempts to push a one-year Farm Bill extension with disaster assistance goes awry; assistance stays but extension doesn't. The bill would be effective for one year at an estimated cost of $383 million. Disaster assistance funds would come from the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a resolution that many conservation groups are not pleased with.
"Although it is critically important that those ranchers who have been affected by the devastating drought get the disaster assistance that they need, this bill offsets the aid through steep, disproportionate cuts to the conservation title. We need Congress to act now to provide aid to ranchers in need, but this should not be a choice between robbing Peter and paying Paul," said Julie Sibbing, director of agriculture and forestry at the National Wildlife Federation.
Even though the American Farm Bureau doesn't oppose the disaster legislation, they noted that almost identical provisions are included in the Senate-passed Farm Bill and the version approved by the House Agriculture Committee. Joining in a coalition letter sent to congressional members Wednesday, AFBF explained that the disaster legislation isn't enough.