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|Sen. Landrieu to meet with local farmers|
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she will meet with local farmers next week to discuss the aftermath of hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
"People do not realize how hard our farmers were hit by these past two storms," Landrieu said.
Landrieu will be in Concordia Oct. 16 for the dedication of the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center. She'll meet with farmers during this visit.
Before Congress recessed last week the senator introduced a bill to provide emergency funds for state farmers devastated by the storms.
Landrieu's measure — The Farm Relief Act of 2008 — provides $1.12 billion in assistance to farmers impacted by hurricanes Gustav and Ike, Tropical Storm Fay, the Midwest floods, and recent tornadoes, wildfires and droughts.
But the bill, headed for approval, was held up by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).
"There is a chance the Farm Relief Act can be passed in a 'lame duck' session of Congress or early next year," said Landrieu "either of which are preferable to waiting for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) program in the Farm Bill to kick in.
"Senator Coburn's state would also benefit from this bill because of disasters that struck nine Oklahoma counties this summer. Unfortunately, this is not the first important bill he has stopped dead in its tracks. He held up the Emmett Till bill, for instance, for more than a year. But I hope his farmers can convince him that since he backed Wall Street in the recent financial bailout vote, he should also back America's farmers today.
"I will continue to work with my colleagues to push this bill through Congress at the earliest opportunity and remind them that helping our farmers –- like the hardworking cotton and soybean farmers of Concordia Parish –- should always come before bailing out Wall Street financiers."
If it becomes law, the Department of Agriculture will be able to provide aid to farmers based on need. The department would be responsible for dispersing the funds, but dispersal would be faster than through the Farm Bill's Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) that was included in the 2008 Farm Bill and becomes available to farmers in late 2009.
"This disaster designation is critical to ensure our farmers have access to some help from the federal government," Landrieu said. "But the aid it provides will take time, and I will not stop fighting for my bill that will immediately send $1.12 billion to farmers in disaster-impacted states. Congress has been too focused on helping Wall Street, and not focused enough on helping the heartland."
She said she "voted against the bailout for the Wall Street high-flyers not only to protect our taxpayers, but it left out a real bridge of support for our agricultural community, particularly in Louisiana, which was hit hard by the disasters."
Landrieu's bill is also cosponsored by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). Congressman Don Cazayoux (D-La.), is expected to introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives with Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), and Charlie Melancon (D-La.).
Landrieu announced Monday that Louisiana has been declared an agricultural disaster by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On September 10, Landrieu and the rest of the Louisiana delegation wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Ed Schafer backing Gov. Bobby Jindal's request to declare Louisiana an agricultural disaster because of devastation to farms from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
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