Getting an agriculture disaster bill approved in Congress “will be difficult,” says Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., “but if we don’t get it accomplished, we’re going to lose a lot of farmers.”

The chairman of the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management said in an interview prior to the mid-year board meeting of Mississippi’s Delta Council, “I’m a supporter and organizer of efforts to provide disaster assistance to farmers who’ve incurred weather-related losses.”

He told Farm Press, “I’m glad to see Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns recognize that there is a serious drought disaster problem across much of agriculture, and we need Congress and the administration to be willing to provide the necessary funds for farmers and businesses.

“On the High Plains, where I come from, we’re in the sixth year of drought in many places, and losses this year are dramatic — our worst wheat crop in 10 years.”

Moran said he held a meeting in July to “plan a strategy for what we need to do to work on disaster assistance when Congress reconvenes in September.”

But, he said, “It’s like the farm bill, getting funding and all the other reasons are going to make it difficult to come up with a disaster bill.”

Chip Morgan, Delta Council executive vice president, said at a subsequent meeting with allied agribusiness and industrial leaders, “Whether we’re going to extend the farm bill or write a new farm bill, a lot of debate is probably going to be framed around issues like this year’s drought.

“I don’t know of many farmers who are going to be carrying a net 10 percent to the bank from this year’s crop.”

Governors of several hard-hit drought states have already declared agriculture disasters and have urged the USDA and Congress to support additional funding beyond the $780 million announced earlier, which many farm organizations have termed “not strong enough.”

“USDA’s release of $780 million is not commensurate with the staggering amount and severity of disaster we’ve seen across the country,” said Tom Buis, president of the National Farmers Union, following the agency’s announcement.

With Congress returning from summer recess the week of Sept. 11, more than 250 NFU members from around the country were scheduled to be in Washington to advocate for emergency disaster assistance and other issues.

They will urge that congress pass emergency disaster assistance before its recess for the November elections.

“Farmers nationwide have experienced overwhelming losses from weather-related disasters in 2005 and 2006,” Buis said. “Congress should immediately pass the Senate Appropriations Committee-approved fiscal 2007 agriculture appropriations bill, which includes $3.9 billion for emergency agricultural disaster relief.”

But, he said, a longer-term solution to farm weather disasters will be congressional passage of “a permanent disaster program to assist producers during times of natural disasters, without having to rely on yearly ad hoc assistance, or the political climate in Washington.”

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com