November 20, 2007

Drought, fire conditions merit assistance request

Crapo, Wyden, Enzi, Barrasso among Senators seeking disaster relief extension

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo joined Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) in spearheading efforts to extend the deadline for federal assistance for ranchers and farmers affected by drought, fires and other disasters this year. Wyoming Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso (both R-Wyoming) are working with Crapo to build Republican support in the bipartisan effort started by Wyden and Crapo.

Crapo, Enzi, Barrasso and other Senators signing the letter to the Chairman and Ranking Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee say the deadline for disaster assistance for this season should be moved to the end of the year to better accommodate those affected by drought and fires this summer. The original deadline was the end of February.

"Unfortunately, this deadline leaves many agriculture producers who have experienced economic losses during this turbulent year without a safety net," wrote the Senators. "Such timely assistance makes a significant difference in the lives of farmers, ranchers, and rural communities."

The February deadline was established in legislation passed earlier this year that included veterans health care and Hurricane Katrina assistance. A similar request has been made to appropriators in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"It's impossible to predict when Mother Nature's wrath will strike, but disaster assistance for those truly in need should be more certain," noted Jennifer Ellis, a rancher from Blackfoot, Idaho and the 2008 Idaho Cattle Association president. "We appreciate Senator Crapo's and the Idaho Delegation's efforts to extend an arbitrary eligibility deadline that is preventing Idaho producers from getting some badly needed disaster assistance."

"In Idaho, it has been a difficult year with the scale and impact of wildfires and the dry conditions." Crapo said. "We want to do all we can to ensure producers get the assistance necessary to remain successful despite the significant challenges faced throughout the year."

"Wyoming agriculture producers all around the state are hit hard year after year due to drought. Extending a deadline is the least we can do to help agriculture producers get through the hard and dry times," said Enzi.

Barrasso said, "It is important to help our farmers and ranchers stay in business through these hard times. Every one of Wyoming's 23 counties has received a disaster designation due to drought conditions this year. I will fight to extend disaster assistance that responds to the conditions in our state."