Aid for local farmers stalled in Congress

Published 12:59 am Monday, November 24, 2008

VIDALIA — Local farmers will have to wait until January to know if they will receive federal aid to ease economic pressures put on them when Hurricane Gustav destroyed their crops earlier this year.

When she visited the parish in October, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu told farmers she was lobbying to get a $1 billion plus aid package, but it had been stalled until the end of the session.

Her hopes were to have the aid measures taken back up in a lame duck session of Congress following the Presidential election, and the Senate introduced a stimulus package last week that included Landrieu’s agriculture legislation in it.

Email newsletter signup

In a statement from her office, however, Landrieu said the stimulus bill will not likely be taken up until January because of “pending partisan opposition.”

“While we did not have the support in the Senate to pass the bill this week, we are continuing to press every option to get the job done before the holidays,” Landrieu said. “Meanwhile, with this inclusion in the stimulus, the outlook for passage by early in the New Year has greatly improved. I will be working with my colleagues to make our farmers a top priority in the 111th Congress.”

Local farmers appreciate the effort, but it is a long time until January, Concordia Parish County Agent Glen Daniels said.

“It really is going to help, but it is kind of a little bit late in that the farmers are already planning and trying to get the cash flow to refinance their debt,” Daniels said. “When farmers can’t get cash flow you have got to look at some kind of alternative financing.”

The funds will be appropriated from monies set aside in the 2008 Farm Bill specifically for disasters, and Daniels said the delay is frustrating when you consider other national developments.

“When you look at the bailout of the financial institutions, they had control over what they did, but the farmers didn’t have control over a hurricane and 24 inches of rain,” Daniels said.

The total aid included in the Landrieu aid package was $1.22 billion.

Other regional Congressional representatives who co-sponsored the aid package were Louisiana’s Sen. David Vitter and Mississippi’s Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran. Louisiana Congressmen Don Cazayoux, Rodney Alexander and Charlie Melancon introduced companion legislation into the House.