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Senate committee approves permanent ag disaster bill
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The U.S. Senate Finance Committee recently approved their portion of the 2007 Farm Bill and the “Heartland, Habitat, Harvest and Horticulture Act of 2007” by a vote of 17-4.

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has been working for some time with agricultural organizations on the proposal which includes a permanent agricultural disaster program. The Georgia Peanut Commission, after surveying Georgia peanut producers in each of the counties producing peanuts in Georgia, made a permanent disaster program a high priority for the 2007 Farm Bill.

“Our growers are telling us that these agricultural disaster programs need to be more consistent than in the past,” said Armond Morris, chairman of the Georgia Peanut Commission. “We appreciate Chairman Baucus’ persistence in obtaining a permanent disaster program.”

The commission will continue to work with Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) to assure that the final farm bill contains the best possible program for Georgia peanut producers.

Currently, farmers and ranchers are forced to wait months, even years to receive financial assistance from Congress when agricultural disasters occur. This provision recognizes the importance of giving producers a safety net when unpreventable events happen. The Permanent Agricultural Disaster Assistance Trust Fund includes “shallow losses,” which are not covered by crop insurance.

Under the proposal, farmers and ranchers are required to obtain crop insurance in order to be eligible for the disaster assistance. Funded by the allocation of certain tariffs, the provision is set to cost $5.1 billion over the life of the farm bill.

“This disaster assistance, tax relief and timely energy incentives will provide a much-needed boost to American agriculture and greater security to our hardworking agricultural producers,” Chairman Baucus said.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is planning to reconvene his committee the week of Oct. 22 in order to quickly produce a version of the farm bill to be considered on the Senate floor.