GRAINGER COUNTY, Tenn
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said today that “more than 9,000 Tennessee farmers have applied to receive nearly $19 million in much-needed help after a devastating year for the state’s agriculture industry” thanks to language included in this year’s federal spending bill.
Alexander joined with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., late last year in securing language in the Omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008 that extended the eligibility date for disaster assistance payments from Feb. 28 to Dec. 31, 2007 to cover the period when Tennessee farmers suffered most of their losses from the drought.
Signed into law by President Bush in December, the spending bill included $622 million in emergency agricultural aid for disaster assistance payments to farmers nationwide
“These federal disaster payments are a necessary step to help our Tennessee farmers who continue to suffer from crop losses that began last year,” said Alexander, during a meeting of Tennessee Farm Bureau members in Grainger County. “The double whammy of the late freeze and the driest spell in the last 118 years have impacted all agriculture, and I encourage all of our farmers to take advantage of these direct payments.”
Alexander said that as a result of this addition to the Omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last month that eligible farmers and ranchers could begin to apply to receive disaster payments immediately.
To date, the Farm Services Agency (FSA) in Tennessee has processed:
o 8,950 applications and made approximately $7.5 million in direct payments under the Livestock Compensation Program (LIP).
o 1,097 applications and made approximately $11.3 million in direct payments under the Crop Disaster Program (CDP).
Alexander also updated the farmers on the status of the new Farm Bill being debated in Congress. After the House and the Senate passed differing versions of the Farm Bill last year, a new draft is being discussed between Congress and the Bush Administration.
“I know the Senate-passed bill is supported by the Tennessee Farm Bureau, many farm groups, and many Tennessee farmers,” said Alexander, who voted for the version of the Farm Bill that passed the Senate. “I am hopeful that the House, the Senate, and the White House will reach an agreement so that Congress can pass a final bill in the near future.”
Alexander said the Senate-passed Farm Bill alters the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to encourage the purchase of “locally produced foods for school meal programs” that would benefit low-income children.
“This should be good news for famous Grainger County tomatoes, as well as other locally-grown produce,” Alexander said. “I fully support this provision to help our local farmers and hope it will be included in the final version of the bill.”