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Permanent Disaster Help for Farmers Hangs in the Balance

March 20, 2008

Mandan, ND – Farmers whose businesses are never disrupted by weather are rare. In the current U.S. Farm Bill, however, there is no provision for assistance for those unlucky enough to lose everything as a result of natural disasters. A permanent 'disaster title' was reported to have been part of the new Farm Bill being negotiated in Congress, but there is uncertainty about that now.

Robert Carlson of the North Dakota Farmers Union says farmers shouldn't be lulled into a false sense of security that they can survive a disaster, with the current commodity prices.

"The real tragedy would be, in this period of relatively high commodity prices and very high input costs, to put a crop in the ground next spring, put all the money into the operation that it requires to raise a crop, and then have a drought or flood ruin it."

Farmers Union members are planning a rally with Senator Kent Conrad a week from today (March 27) in Mandan to draw attention to the situation. Carlson says farmers who feel strongly about this issue need to be proactive.

"We need to wake up out here, and realize that this is part of the Farm Bill that we thought we were going to get. And now, it looks to me like it's threatened. So, we'd better speak up for ourselves."

Carlson sees the extremely dry conditions, in the Western part of the state and across the upper Midwest, as a clear signal that a permanent disaster title should become a critical component of the new Farm Bill's safety net.

Dick Layman/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - ND