Agriculture Committee Holds Hearing on Drought
Washington, DC: Today, Rep. Goodlatte re-emphasized the need for agriculture disaster assistance in the wake of drought and other weather-related disasters that have crippled farmers and ranchers throughout the nation. The House Committee on Agriculture today held a hearing to evaluate the impact of the drought conditions experienced by much of the southeastern United States including Virginia. In a report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on October 18th, 83 percent of Virginia is suffering from severe to exceptional drought conditions. To date, all but two of Virginia’s 95 counties have been declared disaster areas by the Governor’s Office.
“As we heard today many areas throughout the nation, including many parts of Virginia, are experiencing severe drought conditions and agriculture producers are feeling the effects of these adverse conditions. The goal of this Committee is to provide farmers with an adequate safety net to ensure a steady food and fiber supply for all Americans. We’ve seen the devastation our farmers have endured and it is time for the Congress provide disaster assistance and help our farmers rebuild their livelihoods,” said Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte.
On October 5, 2007, Congressman Goodlatte, along with 42 of his colleagues, sent a letter to the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee urging the Chairman to modify current law and extend the eligibility date for agriculture disaster programs from February to December 2007. The current cut-off date for the livestock and crop disaster assistance programs established by the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recover, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act is February 28, 2007. Due to widespread drought and other natural disasters that have occurred since February, the letter urged the Appropriations Committee to push the deadline back to December 31, 2007 so that the USDA could address disaster experienced throughout the year.
Virginia Cattlemen’s Association Executive Secretary Bill McKinnon testified at the hearing and detailed the challenges Virginia livestock producers are experiencing due to drought conditions. McKinnon noted that the drought has caused reduced hay yields, as much as 40-60 percent below last year’s yields in the southeastern region of the state. Livestock producers rely on hay to feed their animals and a with limited hay supply, coupled with poor pasture conditions, many Virginia livestock producers are have had to downsize their herds, taking smaller animals to market and taking home smaller receipts.
Seeking other, more distant feed sources is extremely cost prohibitive. “Given current fuel prices and the constraints of transporting hay, the projected hauling costs appear to be in the $100 to $125 per ton range. These transportation costs are roughly twice the cost of the hay, which effectively triples the price of shipped in hay,” McKinnon stated in his testimony. McKinnon also emphasized the need for livestock producers in the southeast to have access to federal disaster programs to ensure a viable livestock sector.