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House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson wants the new farm bill to guarantee disaster aid to crop and livestock producers, but says a permanent disaster aid plan may not be unveiled until late in the bill-drafting process.

Peterson told Reuters News Service on May 8 that it is a challenge to design a disaster program and align it with crop insurance and crop supports so there is meaningful coverage for farmers and ranchers at a reasonable price.

"This makes the (income tax) code look like a cake walk," said Peterson, an accountant by training.

Agriculture Committee members are expected to begin work on the new farm bill at the subcommittee level later this month. Peterson told Reuters he intends to offer a draft bill "sometime in the next week or two" as a starting point.

Because disaster relief formulas are so complex, however, Peterson said work on the rest of the farm bill might be nearly complete before details of the disaster package are ready for consideration.

"It'll probably be at full committee before we get our first shot," he said, referring to the last stages before a bill is sent to the floor for a vote.

According to Peterson, producers would have to contribute to disaster coverage, possibly through smaller crop subsidies or by paying a fee for coverage. A disaster package would not cover losses completely.

"We're still looking at" the Bush administration proposal to provide some protection of farm revenue as part of crop subsidies, said Peterson. "We haven't rejected that."

Informal estimates are that a disaster relief program could cost $2 billion-$3 billion a year at a time when funding for farm subsidies is declining.

Editor’s note: Richard Brock, The Corn And Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.