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Thune to Senate Leadership: Emergency Drought Relief a Must for South Dakota Farmers and Ranchers

Senator Sends Leaders Frist, Reid Letter Signed by Several Senate Colleagues Requesting Date be Scheduled for Senate Consideration of Emergency Assistance

August 4, 2006

Washington, DC —  Senator John Thune (R-SD) last night sent a letter to U.S Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), signed by 16 additional Senators, conveying the urgency with which U.S. farmers and ranchers require emergency drought relief and requesting a scheduled date for agriculture disaster assistance consideration on the Senate floor as soon as possible.

The group of bipartisan Senators indicated they will be drafting an agriculture assistance package that speaks to damages incurred from this year's drought. Senator Thune and his colleagues suggested this 2006 relief be included in the FY 2007 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which already contains disaster relief for the 2005 crop year that was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 22.

"I'm hopeful the urgency of this letter and the long list of bipartisan Senators who have signed it will cause the Senate Leadership to bring emergency relief to the Senate floor as quickly as possible to assist our farmers and ranchers grappling with drought conditions that our part of the country hasn't witnessed since the Great Depression," Thune said.

Excerpts from letter (PDF of the letter available here):

Many areas of our country are currently facing an extremely severe drought. Agriculture producers in these hard hit areas have gone months, even years, without measurable precipitation. Their need for assistance is urgent and becoming critical.

Farms and ranches, which have been in families for generations, face being sold off because of this drought. If that occurs, we jeopardize our safe, dependable food source.

Farmers and ranchers are running out of options and, more importantly, time. We strongly urge you to agree upon a scheduled time on the legislative calendar to debate and quickly pass an agriculture disaster assistance package, shortly after the Senate returns in September.