Senators Against Disaster Aid Delay

Plains states Senators oppose any delay in congressional approval of $2.9 billion in disaster aid for losses due to drought and other bad weather, Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, told Reuters News Service on Friday.

The Senate passed the aid as part of the fiscal 2005 Department of Homeland Security funding bill. The aid has run into opposition in the House of Representatives on grounds it is too costly, should be offset with spending cuts or is in the wrong bill.

House Republican leaders have said the disaster aid should be handled in a separate bill or made part of a catch-all bill that might be written after the Nov. 2 congressional elections.

"We would vigorously oppose delaying this," said Dorgan, who was among the senators who met Appropriations chairman Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, on the issue. "My sense is he (Stevens) is going to work with us" to keep the item in the spending bill, Dorgan told Reuters.

The disaster aid package has widespread support from agricultural groups, 23 of which signed a letter sent earlier this week to lawmakers asking that the aid be passed.

Some farm groups feel that with Congress on track to approve aid for hurricane victims it would be unfair for lawmakers to deny aid to farmers and ranchers in the rest of the country. The White House has requested over $12 billion for hurricane relief, including $400 million for agriculture.

A staff worker for a member of the House Appropriations Committee said, "We're in a waiting mode," while House leaders decide how to handle the disaster aid question.

Editors 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.