The American Soybean Association is urging Congress to provide funding to deliver much-needed financial assistance to farmers and rural communities to assist them in recovering from devastating losses caused by hurricanes, excessive rain during harvest and other natural disasters across the country, including catastrophic weather-related losses in the Mid-South and neighboring states.

“Soybeans, rice, cotton, peanuts, sweet potatoes and other crops and segments of the agricultural economy currently are experiencing devastating weather-related losses,” said Johnny Dodson, ASA president and soybean producer from Halls, Tenn. “In some cases, the 2009 losses follow on the heels of similar losses in 2008.”

To make the situation even worse, the rains in the Mid-South came during harvest. Farmers had invested the maximum in inputs to bring the crops to completion only to suffer yield and quality losses. This, in addition to increased harvest expenses, has resulted in severe financial stress.

“Processors and related businesses that rely upon robust production will operate at reduced levels or not at all, placing stress on small businesses and rural communities.

“Because there is urgent need for disaster assistance, ASA believes the provisions in the legislation recently introduced by Sens. Cochran, Wicker (both from Mississippi) and Lincoln (from Arkansas) can effectively deliver emergency financial disaster assistance for most crops through a mechanism similar to direct payments,” Dodson said.

“The payments would be limited to counties with a (USDA) Secretarial disaster declaration. This delivery mechanism offers the advantage of delivering timely assistance for yield and quality losses with minimal administrative burden on USDA. Alternative means of providing assistance to specialty crops and other sectors will also be necessary.”

ASA joined with the National Cotton Council, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, USA Rice Federation and the U.S. Rice Producers Association in sending a letter to Sen. Thad Cochran on Nov. 20, expressing strong support and the urgent need for legislation.

Although loss estimates are preliminary, they have already reached the hundreds of millions of dollars. Many producers need assistance within weeks to repay loans and secure new financing in time for spring planting, so prompt action on this measure is vitally important. Alternative means of providing assistance cannot be delivered before late 2010 or early 2011.

The groups are urging leaders in the Senate to work with Cochran to identify an appropriate legislative vehicle that could be enacted before the end of the current session of Congress to provide timely emergency financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who have suffered weather-related losses in 2009.