The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday evening to pass a bill that would provide financial aid for some of the livestock producers reeling from damages caused by the worst drought in a half century.
The $383 million Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012, however, won't be taken up by the Democrat-controlled Senate until after Labor Day because Congress also adjourned for the summer.
The Republican-controlled House was expected to approve the bill, which passed by a 223-197 vote, but it is likely to see opposition from lawmakers eager to pass a five-year farm bill and supporters of programs that stand to see funding cuts in order to accommodate the law.
Under the bill, cattle and sheep producers could receive as much as $100,000 apiece to curb rising feed costs and animal deaths.
The bill would compensate them for 75 percent of the value of livestock killed by drought and 60 percent for feed costs for one to three months.
The bill also includes $20 million for feed and water shortages for livestock, bees and farm-raised fish, as well as a program to help tree farmers recover losses.
More than half the continental United States in under moderate drought or worse, conditions not seen since 1956.
While some lawmakers believe the disaster bill will pass under such extreme circumstances, the legislation has its fair share of critics.
A group of main-line farm groups, for example, said it cuts conservation programs by $639 million, leaving $256 million for deficit reduction.
They’d rather see a full, five-year farm bill passed.
The Associated Press quoted top House Agriculture Committee Democrat Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota as saying that while he would vote for the disaster relief measure, “this bill is a sad substitute for what is really needed, a long-term farm policy.”
He said that while the legislation would help cattle and sheep farmers, “dairy and specialty crop producers will be left hurting and there is no assistance for pork and poultry producers.”
If Congress does approves the disaster aid, it would take a while for USDA to start cutting checks.
The House bill allows three months to write the rules for assistance and additional time to determine eligible recipients and payment amounts.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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