Both the Senate- and House Committee-passed versions of the 2012 Farm Bill include comprehensive disaster assistance provisions. Passage of the new farm bill in the lame duck session of Congress in November and December would eliminate any need to consider separate disaster assistance legislation.

If Congress fails to enact a new bill, then disaster assistance to respond to drought, freezes, and other disasters from the past growing cycle may get separate consideration. The House passed a disaster bill just prior to its August recess, but it was not a comprehensive bill and it paid for disaster aid through an incredibly short-sighted set of cuts to working lands conservation programs.

The best thing Congress can do to respond to disaster needs is to pass a new farm bill. If that does not happen and a separate bill is considered, Congress should pass it under the disaster aid provision provided for by the Budget Control Act of 2011 — not by raiding the very conservation programs that help farmers become more resilient and thus better able to deal with drought and other extreme weather conditions.