In his weekly address, President Barack Obama laid out the steps his administration has taken to help Americans farmers hurt by this year's devastating drought, while also asking Congress to do its part by passing a vital farm bill.
Currently, over one-fifth of the country is experiencing "extreme" or "exceptional" drought. But, whereas some of us might just be feeling the heat only during our daily commute, U.S. farmers have been hit in the pocketbook.
It all starts with corn. Right now, half of the U.S. corn crop is in poor condition. When corn crops fail, farmers have trouble feeding their animals. These two effects combine to create higher prices at the supermarket for everyday consumers.
"We can't let that happen," Obama said in his weekly address. "That's why, at my direction, the Department of Agriculture...has been working with other agencies across the federal government to make sure we're doing everything we can."
Specifically, the president highlighted how low-interest emergency loans have been made available to farmers in 32 states. Additionally, more federal land has been opened up for grazing and crop insurance companies have been given a premiums grace period.
Last week, an extra $30 million in aid was doled out to help farmers by diverting more water to livestock and restoring drought-affected land. But the president said more needs to be done.
"My Administration can't do it alone. Congress needs to do its part, too. They need to pass a farm bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to these kinds of disasters, but also makes necessary reforms and gives them some certainty year-round," Obama said.
The farm bill has been garnering opposition from both sides of the isle. Democrats oppose cuts to food stamps mandated in the bill while Republicans say it is too costly. Either way, the sides were unable to come to a compromise before the August recess, putting the bill away until Congress reconvenes in September.
Meanwhile, a House-proposed $383 million drought bill, which would help farmers with aid while the farm bill is debated, is also seeing trouble. Again, both Democrats and Republicans oppose the legislation and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made it clear the bill might not even be taken up in September.
Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas have been hit hardest by the drought, which has slashed soybean and corn yield estimates to their 2003 and 1995 respective levels. As a consequence, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says food prices will rise 3-4 percent in 2013.
by RTT Staff Writer
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