Sen. Landrieu works to push legislation to help farmers

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 20, 2008

VIDALIA — U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu assured Miss-Lou farmers Thursday that their congressional delegation would do everything it could to bring them emergency aid.

Much of the cotton and bean crop in Concordia and Catahoula parishes was destroyed or seriously damaged by Hurricane Gustav, and both of those were among the 52 parishes that were declared an agricultural disaster Oct. 6.

Landrieu met with local officials, farmers and bankers to discuss aid efforts Thursday following her appearance at the dedication of the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center.

Email newsletter signup

Following the hurricane, members of the legislature were able to put together a $1 billion relief package, but it was delayed until the end of the session, Landrieu said.

“It was stalled, not killed,” she said.

If the national legislature has a lame duck session following the election, Landrieu said she feels she will be able to push the package through, though at the end of the session a senator who is opposed to appropriations delayed it.

“This is not a pork barrel, fly by the seat of our pants, last minute effort,” Landrieu said. “There was $4 billion set aside for disasters in the farm bill, so the money is already there.”

When the relief package goes through, Louisiana should be in a position to pull down several hundred million dollars worth of aid, the senator said.

Locals told Landrieu they feel the extent of the disaster has not been fully appreciated.

“The national media was focused on the levees in New Orleans, but if they wanted to come see the whole sad story, they need to see the cotton that was destroyed, the beans that were lost,” said State Rep. Andy Anders, who is also a farmer. “Our whole livelihood was stopped. I represent the delta, and everything from the banks to the gin to the farmer to the grocery store was affected.”

Delta Bank President Cliff Merritt said the area could use all of the assistance it could get.

“It’s a domino effect,” he said. “If we can get something to the producers, it filters all through the system.”

Landrieu said she and the area’s other representatives are not giving up on the relief package.

“This is our delegation’s number one priority,” she said.