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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the Senate successfully passed legislation today that will provide agricultural producers suffering from drought and other disasters with speedy and targeted disaster assistance.

An amendment offered by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., to target disaster assistance to ranchers and crop producers suffering from the effects of drought, passed the Senate today by a vote of 59-35. The amendment redirects an existing $3.1 billion previously established in an omnibus budget bill to producers in counties that have been declared primary disaster areas. It also designates about $250 million for the Livestock Assistance Program, a program Enzi has continued to work to fund since last year.

Enzi voted in favor of the amendment, which he said is a step in the right direction in helping ranchers who have experienced losses due to drought.

"Right now, every penny counts to livestock producers who are struggling against extreme weather. This amendment won't solve all our ranchers' problems, but sometimes it is better to provide a simple meal to a starving man than promise a feast and not deliver," said Enzi. "The size of this package may not be as large as what I have supported in the past, but the time has come to support and pass assistance in the Senate that our agricultural producers will actually receive."

The amendment also extends the Livestock Compensation Program (LCP), a drought assistance program administered by the Department of Agriculture that ended in December. Extending the LCP allows ranchers in counties declared primary disaster areas after Sept. 19, 2002 to be eligible for the program.

The Cochran amendment also reimburses producers that grazed their own Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres this fall for a 25 percent reduction in their CRP payment. Enzi and colleague Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., wrote a letter to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) director in August to request the FSA to continue to pay agriculture producers who own CRP land the full established rental payments even if the producer uses the land for haying or grazing.

The amendment will also provide $80 million dollars for sugar beet producers who suffered production losses in 2002.

"Wyoming's current drought situation has taken a serious toll on all agriculture producers," said Enzi. "This amendment will responsibly provide drought assistance to producers that have waited so long."

An amendment offered today by Sen. Daschle, D-S.D., to also provide drought assistance fell in the Senate by a vote of 39-56. The amendment would have provided the funding necessary to cover losses in 2001 and 2002 for both crop and livestock producers in disaster counties, but would have cost more than $6 billion in emergency funding.

Enzi said the amendment would have increased funding for agriculture disasters with no corresponding offsets and would have required producers and the FSA to file burdensome paperwork in order to calculate the appropriate payments. A provision similar to Daschle's amendment was included in the Senate version of the Farm Bill last year, but was stripped from the legislation in the conference committee with the House. The White House has consistently opposed any drought funding that is not offset.

The Cochran amendment was funded through a slight, across the board reduction of the 11 appropriations bills, keeping total spending within established budget levels.

The omnibus bill, H.J. Res. 2, is serving as the vehicle for 11 of the yet-unsigned fiscal year 2003 appropriations bills. The Senate plans to complete the legislation by the President's State of the Union speech next week.

Sen. Enzi submitted the following statement for the Senate record during today's debate on the drought amendments.

Statement of Senator Mike Enzi on the Cochran amendment
January 22, 2003


Mr. ENZI: Mr. President, I rise to speak in support of the Cochran amendment. This package is the result of a concentrated effort to provide speedy and targeted assistance to agricultural producers who have suffered from drought and other disasters.

At $3.1 billion, the size of this package is not as large as what I have supported in the past. But the time has come to support and pass assistance in the Senate that our agricultural producers actually receive. The Senate passed drought assistance numerous times in 2001, but each time the provisions were stripped by the House.

Today we have an opportunity to pass desperately-needed drought assistance that for the first time has a good chance of landing in producers pockets and not in the trash can across the street. The President has consistently asked that drought assistance be offset and that it be budget neutral. This amendment is budget neutral.

The Cochran amendment targets assistance to producers in counties that have been declared primary disaster areas. It uses a mechanism to distribute the assistance that will not burden the FSA with another long sign up period and excessive paperwork. It is an improvement over what is currently in the omnibus bill because it specifies $250 million for the Livestock Assistance Program.

The Cochran amendment specifically benefits Wyoming producers in a number of ways. The amendment reimburses producers in my state that grazed their own Conservation Reserve Program acres this fall for the 25% reduction in their CRP payment. The amendment also provides $80 million dollars to sugar beet producers that have suffered production losses in the 2002 crop year. Many of those sugar beet producers live in my state. I know they will be grateful for the assistance that will help them maintain a number of sugar beet cooperatives.

Wyoming's current drought situation is serious. Because the need is so great, I will support the Cochran amendment. It is better to provide a simple meal to a starving man than promise a feast and not deliver.

I urge my colleagues to support the Cochran amendment and responsibly provide drought assistance to the people that have waited so long.

Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.