The National Cotton Council has been joined by other national commodity organizations representing producers, processors and related agri-businesses in expressing strong support for the prompt passage of legislation to provide funding for emergency disaster assistance.
In their letter, the groups thanked a group of Senators for their efforts to deliver much-needed financial assistance to producers and rural communities to assist them in recovering from devastating losses caused by hurricanes, excessive rain during harvest and other weather-related natural disasters that have affected growers in the Mid-South, Southwest and neighboring states. They pledged to urge other Senate leaders to work with the group to identify an appropriate legislative vehicle that could be enacted to provide timely emergency financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who have suffered weather-related losses in 2009.
“Soybeans, cotton, rice, peanuts, sweet potatoes and other crops and segments of the agricultural economy currently are experiencing devastating weather-related losses,” the groups stated. “In some cases, the 2009 losses follow on the heels of similar losses in 2008. To make the situation even worse, the rains in the Mid-South came during harvest so farmers had invested the maximum in inputs to bring the crops to completion only to suffer yield and quality losses, in addition to increased harvest expenses -- which has resulted in severe financial stress. Processors and related businesses that rely upon robust production will operate at reduced levels or not at all, placing stress on small businesses and rural communities.”
The groups said the legislation introduced on November 20 by Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) can deliver urgently needed disaster assistance by utilizing a delivery mechanism similar to Direct Payments. The payments would be limited to growers in counties with Secretarial disaster declaration. The projected cost of the emergency assistance would be off-set so there is no increase in the budget deficit.
They stated, “This delivery mechanism offers the combination of timely assistance for yield and quality losses that can be delivered with minimal administrative burden on USDA.”
The groups also noted that although loss estimates are preliminary, they already have reached the hundreds of millions of dollars. They emphasized that many producers need assistance within weeks to repay loans and secure new financing in time for spring planting -- any alternative means of providing assistance, however well-intentioned cannot be delivered before late 2010 or early 2011.