Last minute legislation passed by the U.S. Senate aimed at averting the so-called “fiscal cliff” includes over $500 million for a U.S. farm disaster program just as Congress avoided the thorny issued of assistance for states hamstrung by Superstorm Sandy.
A section of the bill that saved the U.S. government from falling off a cliff of massive tax increases and budget cuts includes language for “supplemental agricultural disaster assistance” for the U.S. Department of Agricultures’s struggling crop insurance program.
According to the language, funding for the Federal Crop Insurance Act for 2012 and 2013 will receive “supplemental” funds in totally $550 million.
The bill does not state how the funds will be spent.
A spokesman for the USDA says, however, the funds will be targeted to continue “disaster assistance program” of the Farm Service Agency for 2012 and 2013. Of the total, $400 million will be used for “livestock forage disaster program,” $80 million for “livestock indemnity payments, $50 million for “emergency assistance for livestock, honey bees, and farm-raised fish” and $20 million for “tree assistance.”
Supplemental funding for the program may come as a pleasant surprise to farmers suffered significant losses as a result the US summer drought. As much as $25 billion in claims were expected as a result of the drought.
It would also be a small boost to for the crop program that was under budget cut pressure in the months leading up the fiscal cliff debate, even though the funds are not considered a payoff of insured losses.
The funds may, however, become an issue of contention for coastal states that were denied billions in disaster assistance following Superstorm Sandy