McCaskill urges quick action from House on Farm Bill
The lasting damage from the severe drought this year should serve as an impetus for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the new farm bill, Sen. Claire McCaskill said Tuesday.
McCaskill made her comments in a conference call with reporters. She said many grain farmers in the state will be able to collect some sort of federal assistance through crop insurance programs.
But Missouri livestock producers are now left vulnerable because several important disaster assistance programs expired at the end of 2011. McCaskill called the situation a “crisis” for the Missouri economy.
“There are thousands of Missouri families that are very worried right now about whether or not they are going to be able to make their payments, whether or not they are going to get their crops, whether or not they are going to be able to meet their obligations because of this cruel hand that has been dealt by mother nature this year,” she said.
The Senate passed the farm bill a month ago with support from McCaskill and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. McCaskill blamed conservative tea party lawmakers in the House for holding up the bill.
The Senate version of the new farm bill reinstates three key disaster programs for cattle and hog farmers: the livestock indemnity program, emergency livestock assistance program and the livestock forage assistance program.
Those programs help pay farmers for livestock deaths due to extreme weather events, such as the drought, floods or tornadoes.
“These programs are essential for them at this time of crisis and we need to get them done,” McCaskill said.
The emergency funds are separate from special loan programs farmer can now access after the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared the whole state a disaster area.
Conservative lawmakers in the House have pushed for cuts to non-farm programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps. The program accounts for up to 80 percent of the Farm Bill’s $969 billion price tag during the next decade.
The Senate bill cuts around $400 million in spending on food stamps over that time period. Some House members are pushing for cuts four times as large — up to $1.65 billion over that time.
Some of McCaskill’s Republican primary opponents said they also would have voted against the Senate’s bill because of the food stamp spending.
Lawmakers could extend the current farm bill while they work on a compromise, but that would not reinstate the livestock disaster programs.
McCaskill argued that every day Congress waits is another day farmers are not receiving aid.
“That's why I have a sense of urgency about this,” she said. “These programs are essential for them at this time of crisis and we need to get them done."