* Disaster programs ran out of money in 2011
* Bill would keep aid flowing until new farm bill
WASHINGTON Jan 25 Congress would revive
disaster-relief programs for farmers and ranchers hurt by
drought and other natural catastrophes under a stop-gap bill
introduced on Friday by two key Senate committee leaders.
Producers could get up to $100,000 each for losses in 2012
and this year. In particular, ranchers would benefit because
they do not have access to federally subsidized insurance, as
farmers do for their crops.
The bundle of disaster programs, covering livestock, tree
and fruit and vegetable producers, ran out of money in 2011.
Attempts to restart them last year failed.
Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Max
Baucus of Montana filed the legislation, along with Republican
Roy Blunt of Missouri. Stabenow chairs the Agriculture Committee
and Baucus chairs the Finance Committee. Blunt is the Republican
leader on the appropriations subcommittee for agriculture.
"We cannot allow farmers to be wiped out because of a few
days of bad weather," said Stabenow. The co-sponsors said their
bill would keep disaster programs running while Congress writes
a new five-year farm bill.
When the House of Representatives considered a one-year
agricultural disaster bill last summer, the Congressional Budget
Office estimated it would cost $383 million. An estimate of the
cost of the latest bill was not immediately available.
Farmers and ranchers were hit in 2012 by the worst drought
in 56 years. At its worst, the drought covered two-thirds of the
continental United States, including prime land in the Plains
and the Corn Belt. Corn production fell by 12 percent from 2011.