House votes to extend livestock aid

The drought has meant rising feed prices for livestock. This shade-seeker was in Arkansas.
The drought has meant rising feed prices for livestock. This shade-seeker was in Arkansas. (AP)
Posted: August 03, 2012

WASHINGTON - The House on Thursday voted to extend disaster assistance to livestock producers reeling from rising feed prices caused by the drought that has scorched much of the nation.

The 223-197 vote to revive expired disaster-relief programs for cattle and sheep producers was one of the House's last actions before lawmakers left for their five-week August recess.

The Senate was not acting on the bill as it wrapped up its pre-recess work, and Democratic opponents characterized the legislation as cover for Republicans having to explain to rural constituents why they put off action on a comprehensive five-year farm policy bill.

While many crop farmers have insurance that provides some protection from the effects of the worst drought in a quarter-century, livestock producers are vulnerable to sharp increases in feed prices resulting from the dry weather. Some have had to liquidate stocks early because of the high maintenance costs.

The bill would restore four disaster aid programs, mostly for livestock producers and tree farmers, that expired last year. The estimated cost, $383 million, would be paid for by shaving some $630 million from two conservation programs. The disaster programs would be restored for the 2012 budget year.

While there was little dispute over the difficult straits of the livestock industry, there was opposition to the bill from environmental groups disturbed by the cuts to the conservation programs, anti-tax groups that saw the bill as another government bailout, and agriculture groups that have been pushing the House to vote on a five-year farm bill that, in addition to making fundamental changes in agriculture safety nets, would restore the disaster-relief programs.

The current long-term farm bill expires at the end of September.

The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, said that while he would vote for the disaster-relief measure, "this bill is a sad substitute for what is really needed, a long-term farm policy."

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