U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, PA-11, teamed up with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY-21) and U.S. Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY 23) to author a letter calling on the House Committee on Appropriations to fund U.S. Department of Agriculture emergency programs for farmers that will help them recover from the devastation caused by a string of natural disasters, including flooding from Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene.
The letter requests that the next government funding vehicle include $126.7 million for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and $200.2 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP), which is the same amount recently approved by the U.S. Senate as an amendment to the minibus appropriations bill that includes Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD funding.
In their letter, the legislators wrote, "Our nation's farmers have experienced a rise in natural disasters this year, including tornadoes, droughts, floods, hurricanes, tropical storms earthquakes, and most recently, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. While farmers are normally able to recover from crop losses, the intensity and volume of this year's natural disasters has threatened their very livelihoods. By funding ECP as well as EWP, you will enable emergency response resources to help farmers remove debris from their land, repair fences, clear stream channels and road culverts of impassable objects and correct drainage facilities that will otherwise flood again with a strong storm."
This letter is in addition to Rep. Barletta's standalone bill, H.R. 3042, the Disaster Loan Fairness Act of 2011, which would lower the interest rate of all U.S. Small Business Administration disaster relief loans to 1 percent for 30 years. That bill, which is being modified to make those rates retroactive for all SBA disaster relief loans granted since January 1, 2011, has attracted bipartisan support, including Rep. Tonko's.