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Schumer: Congress Approves Aid Package For New York Farmers To Help Recover From Stormy Summer

Schumer says emergency legislation could send New York farmers millions of dollars to help cover losses caused by recent string of hurricanes and bad weather conditions

US Senator Charles Schumer today announced that Congress has approved an estimated $2.9 billion disaster package for farmers suffering from adverse weather conditions and flooding caused by the recent string of hurricanes that have pounded the Eastern United States. Last month, one the same day the Senate passed the initial version of the disaster package, Schumer had met with New York Farm Bureau President John Lincoln and several other farm bureau members to discuss the need for this disaster assistance.

"Farmers shouldn't be held accountable for acts of nature," Schumer said. "Season after season, New York's farmers have been dealt a bad hand and have suffered for it. Whether it's hurricanes or freeze related difficulties, our farmers have continued to face hard times. That's why it was so important for the Senate to pass this bill. It will really soften the blow to some of the hardest working people in our state."

Preliminary crop loss estimates indicate that New York farmers have already suffered almost $875 million in damages and there is concern that losses could end up exceeding $1 billion. Unusually cool conditions including winter freezing, flooding, and excessive rain stemming from a series of hurricanes have wreaked havoc on farms throughout New York. This years storms have caused significant damage to some of New Yorks main agricultural products, including apples, cherries, grapes, pears, sweet corn, onions, hay used to feed dairy cattle, and a wide variety of other crops.

The aid will offer a muchneeded boost to farmers across New York State who have been hit by excessive rains and unfavorable growing conditions this year and in 2003. Schumer explained that today's funding provides $2.3 billion to crop disaster assistance and hundreds of millions to livestock assistance and other emergency programs. In 1999, $14 million of the $1.3 billion in federal crop disaster assistance went to New York. Under the 2000 program, New York received $19.5 million out of a total $1.9 billion. New York similarly benefited from this type of program in 2002. If this trend were to hold under this year's relief allocations, New York farmers would receive 1 percent of the $2.3 billion in crop disaster funds, or $23 million. In addition to this crop disaster assistance, New York farmers will receive millions in additional assistance from other USDA emergency programs.

The legislation also will enable $35 million dollars to be distributed nationwide to growers under the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). The TAP program reimburses 75% of the cost of replanting trees lost due to a natural disaster, and provides payments up to $75,000 to compensate farmers for the capital loss of trees or vines destroyed due to weather or disease. Finger Lakes, Central New York, and the North Country could receive money for trees damaged by excessive cold and moisture. Tree and vine losses in New York State are estimated to equal approximately $12 million.

Included in the nationwide disaster assistance are $100 million for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and $250 million for Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) to assist farmers in cleaning up debris and rehabilitating land damaged by severe weather under. ECP provides funds to rehabilitate farmland through emergency conservation practices such as removing debris, restoring fences or conservation structures and other measures approved by the USDA's Farm Service Agency. EWP provides similar relief such as clearing debris from waterways, restoring vegetation and stabilizing river banks to restore the functioning of the watershed through USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Both programs provide up to 75% of the funds needed for the emergency activities.

The Senate unanimously passed the initial aid package as an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill on September 14, 2004. After a conference with the House, some changes were made to the relief package and the aid was shifted to the Military Construction Appropriations Act. The bill was passed by the House this weekend and the Senate today (Monday) and was sent to the President to be signed into law.