Disasters OP.ED.

Waco, TX - January 17, 2006 - As fires raged across Texas, devastating farms and homes, Congress left for its holiday recess without declaring the burning portions of our state disaster areas. The fires are still burning, and we’ve yet to see any emergency assistance. I am pleased the President Bush declared several counties disaster areas, however I am concerned that the government has yet to provide direct assistance to those who have suffered severe losses on the farm. I am urging him to direct congress to pass an emergency disasters assistance bill to help farmers and ranchers cover all natural disasters – including drought, hurricane, flooding wildfires and deep frosts.

The wildfires of the last several weeks have destroyed crops, pastures, livestock, fences, houses, barns and equipment. We’ve heard reports of the tags melting off animals’ ears, and cows burning to death. To date, the fires have scorched nearly 500,000 acres of farmland here, in Oklahoma and in New Mexico. Millions of dollars in damage has already occurred, with more likely. This summer we also saw massive damage as the result of drought. In Texas, we have some of the best farmers and ranchers in the world, but we cannot control the effect the weather has on our ability to produce a crop.

Farmers affected by Hurricane Katrina or the severe droughts of the summer have yet to receive assistance. Now more are suffering as wildfires spread. I find it irresponsible of Congress to adjourn without passing disaster assistance for producers suffering from the blows of Mother Nature.

Texas Farmers Union is asking Congress to support disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers who have suffered crop and livestock losses in 2005 and 2006 due to weather related disasters including drought, fire, flood, frost, etc.

This assistance should be designated as emergency spending and not offset by reductions in agriculture programs. NFU also believes assistance should be provided to help farmers and ranchers cope with increased energy costs through an economic assistance plan.

Weather-related disaster losses combined with declining commodity prices and skyrocketing energy costs are putting farmers in a financial bind. In the past we have successfully fought for and won disaster assistance, but in the long run we think that Congress needs more than ad-hoc legislation to address disaster in the countryside. TFU supports the development and implementation of a permanent disaster program by the federal government. We believe that such a program should cover both shallow and catastrophic losses.

Our leaders in Washington should not turn their backs on our nation’s suppliers of food and fiber when we need help most. We know we cannot control the weather, but I hope Congress will step in and help us rebuild our farms and businesses.

Texas Farmers Union, P.O. Box 738, Sweetwater, Tx 79556