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                                                   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.