Ag News

Expanded disaster appropriations bill introduced in U.S. House

On April 9, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-New York), introduced H.R. 2157, which would expand emergency disaster assistance funding for area affected by recent natural disasters, including Georgia, where Hurricane Michael inflicted billions of dollars’ worth of damage in October 2018. Lowey’s bill was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.

Congressional members from both major political parties lamented the role politics has played in delaying the delivery of disaster aid.

“In  January, the House passed an Emergency Disaster Appropriations bill that allocated $14.17 billion in emergency spending to help families and communities recover from hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters,” said Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “Since then, this bill has been stalled in the Senate due the president’s political feud with Puerto Rico. This has left millions of Americans unable to rebuild or recoup crop losses. It has also left families hungry from nutrition cuts.”

Bishop said Lowey’s new bill adds $3 billion to address those disasters and brings the appropriations total to $17.2 billion, which would cover all disasters.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue expressed disappointment in Congress’ failure to deliver critical disaster aid to states to help recovery efforts from natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. They pointed out that six months have passed since Hurricane Michael.

“This lack of funding has put Georgia farmers at the breaking point. It is a shame that politics has again gotten in the way of aid for the people of our states who are in desperate need and for farmers who put food on our tables,” Isakson (R-Georgia) said in a statement released April 11. “I am extremely disappointed that Congress will be leaving for a two-week state work period without a resolution and much-needed funding on the way for our states, which have already been pressed to cover disaster recovery expenses beyond what they can afford.”

On April 11, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) delivered statements to the House and Senate Appropriations committees, urging them to move past the political impasse that has stalled delayed supplemental disaster relief.

AFBF explained that farms and ranches across the country endured several weather disasters in 2018 and pointed out that the trend is continuing in 2019 with historic hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires.

“Losses total more than $8 billion, and the full impact of recent flooding in the Midwest is still being assessed. Many of the farmers impacted are facing near-complete losses of their crops, livestock and farm infrastructure,” the group wrote. “At the same time, Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis continues and reauthorizing the Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico program at $600 million is critical.”