WASHINGTON, D.C. -- USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) has begun issuing more than $55 million in payments to help compensate Louisiana sugarcane producers and processors who suffered losses from high winds and rain during hurricanes Isadore and Lili in October 2002, according to an announcement this week by Agricultural Secretary Ann Veneman.

Payments are provided through the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003, which authorized the 2003 Hurricane Assistance Program.

"This assistance will help sugar producers and processors recover from the storms' devastating effects," says Veneman.

The act specified that compensation would be equivalent to the market value of 150,000 tons of sugar. The CCC determined the value at 20 cents per pound — $60 million in total. Initial payments totaling $55.8 million (93 percent of the total assistance), have begun. The remaining $4.2 million is being held in reserve against possible appeals and will be issued once the appeals process is completed.