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House passes assistance bill

The legislation, which passed the House without objection, is the bill that a week earlier — on June 20 — led to an almost unprecedented 24 to 23 vote in the House Ag Committee when Committee Chairman Larry Combest unsuccessfully attempted to increase the package to $6.5 billion.

After the full House vote, few members seemed to have kind words for the legislation, which would provide $4.6 billion in supplemental Market Loss Assistance payments to producers of the program crops — wheat, corn, grain sorghum, barley, oats, upland cotton and rice.

“The need for the $5.5 billion in assistance provided by this bill is so great that a doubling of this amount could easily be utilized,” said Rep. Charles Stenholm, ranking minority member on the Agriculture Committee, who led the fight to keep the package at $5.5 billion.

Stenholm, a Texas Democrat who represents the district next to Republican Combest's on the High Plains, said he opposed the $6.5 billion package because it would have involved borrowing $1 billion from the fiscal 2002 budget.

One of the sticking points in the bill, H.R. 2213, “The Crop Year 2001 Agricultural Economic Assistance Act,” was that the $4.6 billion for Market Loss Assistance payments is nearly $1 billion less than the $5.5 billion Congress provided for such payments in 2000.

The balance of the $5.5 billion — $900 million — will go to oilseeds, peanuts, wool, mohair and other producers.

Combest said that current low commodity prices and higher energy costs “justify no less” than the $5.5 billion provided in last year's Market Loss Assistance to row crop producers alone.

“The important point, however, is to move the process along,” he said on the House floor in advocating passage of the bill. “Because the fiscal 2001 funds will expire unless delivered to hard-pressed farmers by the end of September, it is imperative that a bill be sent to the president for signature before the August recess.

“In my opinion, this amount is not sufficient to meet the minimum needs of our producers, and I intend to work further as this bill moves through the legislative process to improve the package.”

Stenholm also promised to seek more funding for economic assistance as the legislation moves through Congress.

H.R. 2213 includes provisions for:

  • Market Loss Assistance. $4.6 billion in Market Loss Assistance to producers of AMTA crops (wheat, corn, grain sorghum, barley, oats, upland cotton, and rice).

  • Oilseeds Assistance. $424 million in economic assistance to producers of oilseeds (soybeans, sunflower seed, rapeseed, canola, safflower, flaxseed, mustard seed).

  • Peanut Assistance. $54 million in economic assistance to producers of peanuts.

  • Tobacco Assistance. $129 million in economic assistance to producers of tobacco.

  • Wool and Mohair Assistance. $17 million in economic assistance to producers of wool and mohair.

  • Cottonseed Assistance. $85 million in economic assistance to producers and first handlers of cottonseed.

  • Specialty Crops Assistance. Provision includes $26 million in grants to states to promote agriculture with $500,000 for each state and $1 million for Puerto Rico; $133 million in grants to states in amounts that represent the proportional value of specialty crops in each state relative to the national value of specialty crop production; and $10 million in payments to states for the processing, transportation, and distribution of commodities purchased under the Emergency Food Assistance Act (EFAP) of 1983.

  • Payment Limitations. Increases payment limits on marketing loan gains and deficiency payments to $150,000 per person for the 2001 crop.


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