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Is fourth time disaster bill's good luck?

If at first you don't succeed try, try again. I haven't checked lately, but I suspect that if you look at Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, there's a photo of Sen. Kent Conrad next to the listing for that old saying.

That's because the senator from North Dakota has once again introduced legislation to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers who have suffered income losses due to droughts, floods and other weather disasters in the last two years.

The legislation, the 2007 Emergency Farm Relief Act, is a bipartisan bill effort to help farm families across the nation recover from losses to natural disasters including recent blizzards that have wreaked havoc on the Plains States. The bill has 12 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

Republican and Democratic members of the House, including Reps. Marion Berry, D-Ark., Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, have also said they support similar legislation in the lower chamber.

“For over a year, I, along with many Senate colleagues, have been fighting to pass disaster assistance for our farmers,” said Conrad, a Democrat. “But there continues to be a roadblock at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This administration has done everything in its power to keep federal aid from America's farmers.”

The new disaster package incorporates many of the provisions previously approved by the Senate, but has been modified to satisfy the Bush administration's objections to providing assistance to farmers hurt by rising energy prices.

Conrad has introduced legislation for the 2005 and 2006 disasters on three different occasions, including an attempt to amend the fiscal year 2007 agricultural appropriations bill last November and December.

He fell three votes short on what would have been a symbolic vote on the amendment just before the 209th Congress adjourned. Rather than passing a stand-alone ag appropriations bill, congressional leaders voted to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government operating into January. The latter could not be amended.

“All across the nation, farmers and ranchers have faced severe cycles of natural disasters over the past two years,” Conrad said in a press release that accompanied the introduction of the latest bill.

Sen. Conrad's bill would provide $4.4 billion in emergency funding to farmers and ranchers.

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