HELP IS ON THE WAY FOR ALABAMA FARMERS
MONTGOMERY Alabama farmers hit hard by drought and record-low commodity prices will be getting some much-needed relief thanks to an $8.7 billion agricultural disaster package approved by the U.S. Senate, said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby.
"We are pleased Congress has recognized the crisis our farm families are facing," Newby said. "Across the country, many commodity prices are below the cost of production. Here in Alabama, dry weather has compounded our problems by slashing yields and reducing quality. I especially want to thank Alabama's congressional delegation for taking a leadership role in pushing this bill through Congress. Their actions will benefit not only farmers, but all Alabamians."
The disaster package, which was part of the annual Agriculture Appropriations bill, passed the Senate Oct. 13. The House of Representatives approved the bill two weeks ago, and it is expected to be signed into law by the President. It includes $5.54 billion in market loss payments, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture hopes to begin mailing to farmers the first week of November. The payments will mean a 100-percent increase in this year's agricultural market transition payment (AMTA) for eligible producers.
In addition to market loss payments, the bill includes $475 million in direct payments for soybean and minor oilseed producers, $325 million for livestock and dairy producers, $1.2 billion for quality and quantity losses in 1999 crops, and $400 million in premium discounts to help producers buy crop insurance for next year. The bill also increases the current loan deficiency payment limit from $75,000 to $150,000 and reinstates the Step 2 competitiveness program for cotton.
"These programs are a necessary first-step to enable farmers to survive the 1999 crisis and to continue providing consumers with an economical and safe food supply. But more must be done," Newby said. "Disaster programs of this magnitude are proof that our current farm bill is not working. The Alabama Farmers Federation will continue to work with Congress to restore a financial safety net for agriculture while developing risk management tools to lessen farmers' dependence on these stop-gap disaster programs."