This week the House is expected to vote on a disaster relief package for those impacted by lengthy drought.

To read the legislation, see here.

The summary of the disaster legislation being considered in the House reads:

“Section 1.  Short Title.

“Section 2.  Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance.

With 64 percent of the contiguous United States experiencing drought, it is important that our nation’s livestock producers be provided with effective risk management tools.  The current livestock disaster policies expired in September 2011, one year before the end of the 2008 farm bill.  This legislation would re-authorize these policies for fiscal year 2012.  Specifically, Livestock Indemnity Payments (LIP), Livestock Forage Disaster Programs (LFP), Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish (ELAP), and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) are all generally reauthorized.

“Section 3. Modification of Certain Conservation Programs.

To pay for this disaster assistance, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program is capped at $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2013 and the Conservation Stewardship Program is capped at 11 million acres in fiscal year 2013.  These offsets are consistent with levels previously established by enacted appropriations -- which reduced levels authorized by the Agriculture Committees -- and will still allow these important programs to function at recent funding levels.” 

Not surprisingly, Section 3 is especially unwelcome among environmental groups.

“Although it is critically important that those ranchers who have been affected by the devastating drought get the disaster assistance that they need, this bill offsets the aid through steep, disproportionate cuts to the conservation title,” said Julie Sibbing, director of agriculture and forestry at the National Wildlife Federation. “We need Congress to act now to provide aid to ranchers in need, but this should not be a choice between robbing Peter and paying Paul.

“Cutting conservation programs to pay for disaster relief would be short-sighted and irresponsible; conservation programs help to build soil health and resilience that buffer extreme weather events such as droughts. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, some of the only forage available in drought-prone areas has been through emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program land. By cutting conservation programs now, we are only ensuring high future costs.”

For more drought coverage, see here.