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House committee passes $5.5 billion AMTA bill

Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas, had presented the Committee with legislation that would have provided $6.5 billion, strongly warning that the alternative package adopted by the Committee — as 85 percent less than last year’s assistance — will be insufficient to meet producers’ worsening prices for crops in the 2001 crop year. Chairman Combest told Committee Members that restricting spending to FY2001 money would prevent the Committee from addressing properly the needs of dairy and sugar producers.

Combest also stated that the alternative spending plan would not be able to provide Loan Deficiency Payment eligibility to producers on non-contract farms who would otherwise receive no assistance at all. Nor, said the Chairman, would the substitute be able to provide fruit and vegetable producers assistance in drawing down surplus stocks throughout the coming marketing season.

Combest’s $6.5 billion proposal fully covered the farmer’s 2001 crop year by bridging together $5.5 billion in 2001 Fiscal Year funds and $1 billion in 2002 Fiscal Year funds, to remain within the Budget Resolution agreed to by Congress and the Bush Administration this past May.

The substitute amendment by Ranking Member Charles Stenholm, D-Texas, and Vice Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio, limits overall assistance to $5.5 billion, with $4.6 billion in market loss payments to major crop producers, and the balance to oilseed, peanut, wool and mohair, tobacco quota holders, as well as handlers and producers of cottonseed.

Provisions of the substitute amendment include:

— $4.6 billion for supplemental market loss assistance payments to individuals receiving an AMTA payment

— $423 million to producers of 2000 crop of oilseeds

— $54.2 million to producers of peanuts

— $16.9 million to producers of wool and mohair

— $84.7 million to producers and first handlers of cottonseed

— $129 million in supplemental payments to tobacco quota holders

— $169 million in the following manner:

$10 million for direct and indirect costs related to the processing, transportation, and distribution of commodities

$500,000 grant to each state and $1 million Puerto Rico to promote agriculture

Grants to each state totaling $134 million based on the value of production of specialty crops in relation to the national value of specialty crop production

States receiving these grants must agree to give a priority to specialty crops as a condition of receiving the grant

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