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Agriculture disaster bill introduced

WASHINGTON — Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.) and Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) have introduced legislation to provide timely disaster assistance to producers facing severe crop loss from this fall’s heavy rains and floods. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, and Senator Thad Cochran previously introduced companion legislation.

“In North Mississippi, both farmers and local economies have suffered from this season’s unprecedented rainfall,” said Childers. “Significant assistance currently available through the USDA is still not enough to make up for the incredible crop losses local producers have experienced. While we await the full implementation of Farm Bill assistance provisions, this important legislation will help local economies stay afloat by providing farmers with the resources they need to get back on their feet.”

In Mississippi, 79 of 82 counties have been granted primary disaster designations by the USDA based on a minimum 30 percent loss for at least one crop in each county. Agriculture economists at Mississippi State University (MSU) estimate that state crop losses are nearing $485 million, exceeding 30 percent of the state’s overall crop value. Based on crop reports, MSU noted that nearly 64 percent of the state’s sweet potatoes, 50 percent of cotton, 44 percent of soybeans and 41 percent of grain sorghum will also be lost this year.

The legislation also includes $650 million to assist specialty crop producers, $150 million in assistance for livestock producers and $42 million to aid first handlers of cottonseed.

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