Next week, a discharge petition on agriculture disaster assistance (H. Res. 998) will be available for members of Congress to sign starting Tuesday. The discharge petition would require the House of Representatives to consider agriculture disaster assistance legislation once 218 members of Congress have signed it.

The discharge petition was introduced by congressman John Barrow of Georgia with the support of Democratic leadership, including House Agriculture Committee Ranking Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and Rural Working Group co-chairs Bob Etheridge of North Carolina and Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota.

A coalition of more than 30 farm and allied organizations, including the National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation, Independent Community Bankers of America, Farm Credit Council and others have recognized the critical need for disaster assistance and are urging Congress to act quickly and decisively to provide comprehensive relief before the October recess.

Assistance is desperately needed in areas of the country that have experienced devastating drought and other natural disasters. The House Democratic leadership sent a letter to the speaker of the House and House majority leader asking them to schedule time for the House to consider agriculture disaster assistance legislation before Congress recesses at the end of September to campaign for the elections in November.

More than 60 percent of all U.S. counties have been declared primary or contiguous disaster areas by the United States Department of Agriculture this year, and last year, 80 percent of counties were primary or contiguous disaster areas. Farmers have waited long enough for relief, and rural communities are counting on Congress to provide this desperately needed assistance.

A press conference call with members of Congress leading the charge on the discharge petition is expected to take place early next week.