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ACGA testifies before Senate on need of disaster assistance

(Aug. 20, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- Keith Dittrich, president of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) and a corn farmer from Tilden Neb., was a key witness in today's Senate hearing in Grand Island, Neb. on the worsening drought and the impact it has on the nation's farm and ranch families. Dittrich called upon the Senators to support pending emergency legislation for farmers and ranchers hard hit by natural disasters, both in the 2001 and 2002 crop years.

"In a normal year, about 12 percent of the U.S. experiences a drought," said Dittrich "This year, however, according to the National Weather Service, about 52 percent of the nation is experiencing drought. This is no small pocket of minor discomfort, this is an extremely serious and widespread disaster."

Last month, ACGA and a dozen other organizations asked Congress to use the Congressional summer recess as a time to tour and investigate the severity of the drought. "I am pleased that this group of Senators took our invitation and we are glad you are here today, proclaimed Dittrich. "Now please take this message back to Washington with you and pass the necessary programs so essential in keeping our hard hit farm and ranch families on the land."

Dittrich assessed the current situation by explaining, "The drought in Nebraska has been devastating. According to the Aug. 12, 2002 USDA Crop Production Report, Nebraska is projected to produce nearly 20 percent less corn and 23 percent less soybeans than in 2001. And it is highly likely that the final production figure will fall more, since in 1995 with similar national conditions, the final national average corn yield was 12 bushels per acre lower than the August 1995 USDA crop estimates."

"Even with the new farm bill, the safety net for corn farmers is still about twenty percent below our cost of production and no better for other segments of production agriculture," said Dittrich. "USDA announced this summer, before the severity of the drought was even considered, that farm income for this year will be 15 percent below last year's. I can tell you that no one made any profit last year and when natural disaster hits, our farm families cannot survive without essential emergency assistance. Until we can have farm policy which provides a fair price for what we raise when times are good, we will be required to assist those in need when times are bad."

Dittrich pointed out that the assistance should be for 2001 and 2002 and if a producer had a disaster in both years they should receive program benefits for both years, not only one as some have suggested. He also explained in detail why the program funding should not come from other farm programs and the funding should be sufficient to avoid the need to prorate benefits. Dittrich extended his remarks past the current needs and explained the need for a standing disaster program, a Farmer Owned Reserve (FOR) for grain in order to insure the needs of livestock producers, the ethanol sector and the nation as a whole in future disaster years.

The American Corn Growers Association represents 14,000 members in 35 states. To view Dittrich's full testimony and other information about ACGA, please visit their website at http://www.ACGA.org .