March 28, 2006

Senators push for $3.8 bln in farm disaster aid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Farm-state senators made a new push
on Wednesday for Congress to pass $3.8 billion in disaster aid
to U.S. farmers and ranchers impacted by hurricane, drought and
flood losses last year.

Sponsors Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, North Dakota
Democrats, said they would try to attach the legislation to a
spending bill expected to go to a floor vote soon. The House
already has passed its version of the bill.

"My hope is those who blocked (aid) on the House side will
change their minds," said Dorgan, referring to a refusal by
House Republican leaders to allow the aid last year despite
Senate passage.

Conrad said the package would compensate producers for
weather-related crop and livestock losses as well as the impact
of a steep rise in fuel and fertilizer prices.

Some 22 farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau
Federation and the National Farmers Union, support the
legislation. Seventy percent of U.S. counties were declared
disaster areas last year. Besides hurricane damage in Florida
and Gulf Coast states, spring floods hit farmland in the
northern Great Plains and drought blistered crops from the
southern Plains to the eastern Corn Belt.

"Weather-related disaster losses combined with declining
commodity prices and skyrocketing energy costs are putting
farmers in a financial bind," said NFU President Tom Buis.

Two dozen senators -- seven Republicans and 14 Democrats --
sponsored the bill.