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Letter to Secretary Of Agriculture Mike Johanns

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to Secretary Of Agriculture Mike Johanns

The Missouri Congressional Delegation today sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Mike Johanns, requesting additional funds for Missouri farmers and ranchers hit hard by winter storms.

From January 12 - 14th, severe winter storms hit the state. The bipartisan letter, signed by every member of the Missouri Congressional Delegation, requests Section 32 funds from the Department of Agriculture. Release of these funds would provide Missouri farmers and ranchers immediate relief.

The text of the letter follows.

The Honorable Mike Johanns

Secretary of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Johanns:

Missouri farmers and ranchers were impacted by ice storms that began on January 12, 2007. The severity of the storms left thousands without power and adequate water supplies. Many Missouri residents still face the challenge of dealing with the extreme weather conditions as several inches of ice remain more than two weeks after the initial storm.

The President declared a major disaster on January 15. We applaud the administration's prompt action regarding this winter weather disaster and commend the Federal Management Agency (FEMA) officials who have worked long, tireless hours with state and local officials to ensure resources such as warm buildings, food and water were supplied in a timely manner.

However, this has also had a significant impact upon our agricultural producers as this ice storm hit the part of our state where farmers and ranchers are also suffering from persistent drought. Some of these producers have suffered losses from recent tornados and those same fences have been damaged again.

Due to power outages and faulty generators, the milking on our dairy farms was delayed affecting milk production. Livestock producers had injured cattle and even some death loss due to livestock slipping on the ice. Food safety concerns prevented the normal culling of these injured animals. Therefore, there is no avenue available for producers to recoup losses. Some ponds have minimal water supplies due to the drought, which made chopping ice impossible, and with the electricity failure, water pumps on the wells were inoperable. As a result, it became a challenge to provide the most basic necessity of watering these animals.

The drought over the past few years has burned pastures and exhausted hay supplies. With the cost of fuel added into the equation of shipping the limited hay supplies, producers are paying approximately $140 per ton. This is assuming producers are even able to find hay; most farmers cannot find hay due to the number of natural weather induced disasters throughout the Midwest these last few years. The infrastructural damage is also extreme as farmers' fences have been damaged and destroyed and heavy ice accumulation led to significant structural damage. This is a mere summary of the seriousness of the condition in large parts of rural Missouri.

On January 19th, Governor Matt Blunt sent a letter to you requesting a review of the United States Department of Agriculture Flash Situation Reports and requested a disaster declaration of the counties included in the Presidential Disaster Designation for Public Assistance as eligible for both the Administrative Physical Loss Notification and Emergency Conservation Program. Support letters for the Governor's request from both Missouri Senators and House members, whose districts were impacted by the drought, promptly followed.

Our Missouri farmers and ranchers truly appreciate your efforts to provide emergency low-interests loans, but that resource alone is not sufficient. As you know the Emergency Conservation Program would be the appropriate program to seek funding for this disaster but unfortunately the program is over-subscribed. Our rural communities are suffering and cannot afford this additional economic setback.

We strongly urge you to consider releasing Section 32 funds. We are well aware the Department prefers to reserve these funds to purchase non-price-supported commodities such as fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry for school lunch programs, nursing homes and low-income families. We understand your concern that using these funds may result in less funding for its intended purposes but considering the fund's surplus we feel this request is appropriate.

The Department has an impressive and long history of releasing Section 32 funds for Hurricane Agricultural Disaster Assistance, Livestock Compensation Programs, Cattle Feed Programs, Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Payment Programs and Small Hog Operation Programs just to name a few over the last 5 years. Most recently, in August of 2006, the Department used Section 32 funds for a Livestock Assistance Grant Program.

The current situation in Missouri meets the standard set forth by the Department's precedent for using Section 32 funds in extreme emergency situations. It is our understanding you have funds reserved for what may occur. The dire need for using these funds in Missouri has already occurred. In fact, there are unobligated prior year funds that you have the authority to use with considerable discretion. We encourage you to release some of the unobligated funds to meet the urgency of this situation as it is necessary to reestablish purchasing power for many Missouri farmers and ranchers.

It is our hope that you will grant this strong bipartisan request promptly and use the Section 32 funds to help provide immediate relief to the many Missouri farmers and ranchers who otherwise may not recover from this disaster. Along with our fellow Missourians, we eagerly await your decision on this request for assistance.

Sincerely,

Christopher S. Bond

Claire McCaskill

Roy Blunt

Ike Skelton

Kenny C. Hulshof

Sam Graves

Emanuel Cleaver

JoAnn Emerson

Wm. Lacy Clay

Russ Carnahan

W. Todd Akin

http://bond.senate.gov/press_section/record.cfm?id=268442

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