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Daschle asks Bush to unleash disaster aid

Legislation that would provide nearly $6 billion in disaster aid to those producers is stalled in Congress due to lack of action by the House on the Interior Appropriations bill, Daschle said. The latter contains a Senate-passed amendment authorizing the emergency assistance.

“I am writing with the thought that you might be interested to learn that today, Senators Tim Johnson, Paul Wellstone, Tom Harkin, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan and Ben Nelson and representatives from a group of 34 agricultural organizations called on the Bush Administration and House Republican leadership to end their 237-day-old opposition to immediate emergency disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers,” Daschle said.

“We said it is imperative that a bill go to the president before Congress adjourns, but stressed that inaction by the House would prevent this from happening.” (Daschle and Johnson are from South Dakota; Wellstone, Minnesota; Harkin, Iowa; Conrad, North Dakota; and Nelson, from Florida

Daschle noted that farmers and ranchers are suffering from one of the worst droughts on record as well as devastating flooding across the country. In his home state of South Dakota alone, he said, the drought is costing producers more than $5 million per day.

“It is long past time that the federal government respond in a manner fitting a natural disaster of this magnitude,” he said. “The Senate has passed disaster assistance three times with overwhelming, bipartisan support.

“Unfortunately, neither the House nor the White House has given us any indication that passing this bill again will do any good. For months, we have appealed to the White House and House leadership on the merits of this issue, but they continue to oppose assistance for farmers and ranchers.”

Recent polls show that more than three-quarters of voters agree that farmers and ranchers suffering from natural disasters deserve the same treatment as other natural disaster victims, the majority leader said. “Perhaps this additional information will be enough to convince the Administration and the House that a position against farmers and ranchers is a losing one.

“The House must provide farmers and ranchers with the full assistance they need to survive. Piecemeal approaches and half-measures are not enough, and that is why the House needs to act immediately.”

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