More Ranchers to be Eligible For Disaster Payments

Congress gave final approval to legislation ensuring more ranchers receive compensation for losses due to weather-related disasters.

President Bush signed a bill earlier this year for $3 billion in assistance to farmers and ranchers who have losses from drought and other disasters. But it was written in such a way that made some ranchers uneligible for the benefits.

The Senate passed the remedial bill — authored by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., pushed it through the House, and it now heads to President Bush’s desk for his signature.

In a letter to her House colleagues, Herseth Sandlin said many ranchers were excluded from eligibility due to the way the Department of Agriculture interpreted the language.

“I assure you this was not the intention of Congress in crafting the bill and, regardless of the accuracy of USDA’s legal interpretation, it requires a legislative fix,” she wrote.

Thune said the problem could have made as many as 90 percent of ranchers ineligible for the benefits.

“I will continue working with the USDA to ensure disaster assistance is not further delayed,” he said.