Jul 20 2007

Drought aid faces hurdle in Congress Alabama delegation produces mixed results

Birmingham News

By Mary Orndorff

Twice on Thursday Alabama members of Congress tried to ramp up disaster assistance for farmers battling drought but had mixed success, indicating the spending battle over emergency agriculture programs will continue later in the session.

In the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., increased by $10 million the national Emergency Conservation Program, which can be used to rehabilitate pastures or drill wells. The additional money, if given final approval, was not specifically designated for Alabama.

The panel also agreed to extend the dates that farmers are eligible for the Livestock Assistance Program to include more cattlemen enduring the current drought.

But an attempt to widen the eligibility for farmers who lost crops this year was deferred until the bill reaches the full Senate floor.

On the House side, Reps. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, and Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, were unable to add $5 million to each of the disaster aid programs to the House version of the bill. Instead, House leaders said the money should be part of an upcoming emergency supplemental spending bill.