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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced legislation today that responds to the call for drought assistance echoing through the ranching communities of Wyoming and the West.

Enzi also met with President Bush yesterday at the White House to stress the need for federal drought assistance for western ranchers.

"I told him that this drought has had an impact on just about every aspect of life in the West," said Enzi. "It threatens agricultural communities' very way of life and for ranchers who need to provide for their families it has been nothing short of a disaster. I hope our conversation helped him grasp the severity of the drought and will be in his mind when he's asked to approve disaster funding."

Enzi and Senators Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced legislation designed to provide $500 million for the Livestock Assistance Program (LAP), $12 million of which would go toward the American Indian Livestock Feed Program. The LAP provides financial relief to livestock producers experiencing livestock production loss due to drought and other disasters.

"Even though we have only just passed the midway point of this year, scores of producers have experienced more loss in the past few months than they did for all of last year," said Enzi. "This bill won't solve all of a rancher's problems, but it will give them a fighting chance to survive."

Enzi's legislation would lower subsidy amounts provided by the Farm Bill to large corporate agricultural producers from $360,000 to $280,000 per year and would apply the savings to the LAP. Once the LAP is funded, producers may apply for relief, which would be distributed by a formula that splits the available money according to ranchers' needs. Producers would be allowed to choose to receive payments for losses in either 2001 or 2002, whichever is greater.

Enzi said lowering the amount of the subsidies approved in the Farm Bill would allow small family farmers to continue to receive the assistance they need and give ranchers hope for survival.

"We continue to slip outrageous benefits to corporate farms that don't need assistance while Wyoming and the West blows away in the wind," said Enzi. "If we equalize the gap between the high farm bill payments for multi-million dollar farms and the zero sum our ranchers receive we can, and will, save both farmers and ranchers who desperately need our help," said Enzi.

Enzi has continued to work to find ways to fund the LAP and was successful in adding a similar amendment to the Senate Farm Bill earlier this year. However, the money was taken out by a conference committee that reconciled the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill.

Enzi later attempted to add LAP funding as an amendment to the emergency supplemental spending bill passed last month, but due to parliamentary maneuvers a vote was prevented on the amendment.

Enzi said the time to answer the call for drought assistance for livestock producers is now.

"Every day the need for relief grows more and more desperate," said Enzi. "Mother Nature may be unrelenting, but I will not stand idly by."

Enzi's legislation has been referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee.