U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) today pressed for legislation to ensure that federal disaster relief is available for farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and across the country who are hit by this year's worsening drought.
Sen. Franken joined several Senate colleagues in pushing for a bill to restart funding for four U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster-relief programs that expired in October of last year and to ensure that they cover qualified livestock losses incurred since then.
"Farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and across the country are being hit by expanding drought conditions, and some of our most important disaster-relief tools have lapsed," said Sen. Franken. "This legislation would restart four important disaster-relief programs for livestock producers who are suffering losses in the current drought."
The Wildfire and Drought Relief for Ranchers and Farmers Act will provide one year of retroactive mandatory funding for four disaster relief programs which expired on October 1, 2011. The USDA programs included are:
Livestock Forage Disaster Program, which covers grazing losses on federally leased land.
Livestock Indemnity Program, which covers livestock deaths on both private or federal land. Farmers are compensated at a rate of 75% of market values for livestock killed by disasters.
Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, which compensates producers for disaster losses not covered under other disaster programs.
Tree Assistance Program, which provides payments to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers to cover 70% of the cost of replanting trees or nursery stock following a disaster.
The Wildfire and Drought Relief for Ranchers and Farmers Act was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and cosponsored by Sen. Franken and Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).