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ACGA calls for more comprehensive emergency assistance for America's farm families

(Friday, Jan. 24, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Keith Dittrich, president of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) and a corn farmer from Tilden, Neb., congratulated new leadership of the new 108th Congress, for their swift initiatives to assistance farm families hard hit by natural disasters over the past two crop years. Dittrich stated it was a positive first step, but warned the measure was woefully short of providing the comprehensive relief necessary for so many farm and ranch families.

"We are pleased with the speed in which the Senate leadership moved on this issue, but we are very concerned that the measure approved on Jan. 22 is not comprehensive or as equitable as it could be and only contains about half of the amount of funding required," remarked Dittrich. "We would have preferred the amendment by Senator Tom Daschle which would have covered both 2001 and 2002 crop losses and would have been delivered more equitably to those producers hardest hit by natural disasters. We now strongly urge leadership in the House of Representatives to substitute a measure similar to HR 307, which has over 22 bipartisan cosponsors, to properly address the needs of America's farmers and ranchers."

"As we have stated, the measure proposed by the Senate majority leadership and attached to the omnibus spending package is an important step, but we must move further. Failure to do so sets several bad precedents. The first is to require reductions in other programs, or offsets, to pay for disasters," warned Dittrich. " What will happen from now on when a hurricane, earthquake or other catastrophic natural disaster hits? Will we expect to see cuts in other essential programs in order to cover the costs of critcal relief programs? The second disturbing precedent set by this measure is using across-the-board economic assistance to all producers to cover natural disaster losses of some producers. This practice is inequitable not only to the producers hardest hit by disaster, but to taxpayers who will now be asked to pay additional benefits to producers who were fortunate enough to avoid such losses."

"As far as the vote on the Daschle amendment is concerned, it is too late to worry about the loss of such an important vote, but it is truly hard for farmers to understand why the same measure which was approved in the Senate prior to the election with 79 yeas, only received 39 yeas now that the election has passed," added Dittrich. "It proves once more that farm policy is a political problem, only a political problem, and no other kind of problem. To improve farm policy, including disaster assistance, farmers must be more politically involved and hold everyone in the political process accountable. That includes those in leadership in both houses of Congress, those in the White House and those in all political parties."

The American Corn Growers Association represents 14,000 members in 35 states. See http://www.acga.org.