Southern Farmers Complain About Disaster Aid Program

August 24, 2010

The permanent disaster aid program in the 2008 Farm Bill was intended to spare Congress from having to scrape up extra money every time a drought, flood or hurricane struck farm country, but growers in the South claim the plan has failed them.

They argue the program needs changes, and as proof they point to the situation in Arkansas, where Sen. Blanche Lincoln has for months struggled to secure a special $1.5 billion package of disaster aid for Southern farmers hit by bad weather last year. After Lincoln failed to get the funding through Congress, the Obama administration agreed to provide the money administratively.

Southern farmers said they need the help because they didn’t buy crop insurance, a requirement to qualify for the permanent disaster aid plan. Crop insurance sign-up is high among Midwest corn, soybean and wheat farmers, but in the South, many rice and cotton farmers complain premiums are too high for the benefits they receive.

“The parts of the country where we had the worst weather the last couple years are areas where they don’t buy crop insurance,” said Tara Smith, a director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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