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Farm Disaster Relief - On the Way to Minnesota Farmers

May 31, 2007

St. Paul, MN - President Bush has signed legislation that includes $3 billion in disaster assistance for farmers. Minnesota Farmers Union president Doug Peterson explains the money is earmarked for those who suffered agricultural losses from 2005 to 2007. He says it's a stopgap measure, designed to get farmers into the next crop cycle.

"Disaster payments will never make you whole when you have received a loss, and it's not meant to feather the nest, so to speak. But it is meant to keep people on the land and make sure, if they've had a disaster, they can at least pay their bills and continue to go. They will be able to, at least, recoup enough money to pay the banker their crop loans. It basically allows them to continue to farm another year."

The assistance will go primarily to producers with weather-related crop and livestock losses. Peterson feels a better solution would be permanent farm disaster relief, rather than forcing farmers to go to Congress, year after year. He likens disaster assistance to an insurance policy on a car or home -- the difference is, everyone has a stake in the production of food.

"Farming is a business. We're trying to protect against losses. Many times, when you're farming, you have to hit a home run in marketing, you have to hit a home run in yield, and you have to hit a home run in price. And, when Mother Nature bats last, you're not going to be playing that game very long if don't get some sort of emergency assistance when you do have a legitimate disaster."

Farmers can't control natural disasters but, as Peterson puts it, everyone knows keeping them in business is in the national interest. He warns if independent farmers fail, food production could be taken over by corporations, which would not be in the best interest of consumers or the economy.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN