Agriculture experts pushing for drought relief bill

July 23, 2012

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture is urging Congress to reinstate a relief program for farmers suffering through drought. As KJZZ’s Nick Blumberg reports, that bill could have an impact in Arizona.
Secretary Tom Vilsack toured struggling farms in Iowa Monday. Farmers in that state, and across much of the U.S., are dealing with the worst drought conditions in decades. Expired disaster assistance programs from a 2008 farm bill have been renewed by the Senate, but Republican leaders of the House haven’t scheduled a vote. Vilsack says there is no issue before Congress right now that’s more important.

Kevin Rogers, President of the Arizona Farm Bureau and himself a local farmer, agrees.

“It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time for the disaster programs to be written and for them to show up at the local office and farmers can go in and prove whether they’ve been harmed and see if there’s some relief opportunities for them there. So the sooner Congress acts the better off we’ll all be," Rogers said.

Rogers says most farms in Arizona have irrigation systems and aren’t as dependent on rainfall, but that droughts do affect ranchers’ ability to grow enough food for their animals.

Losing crops will eventually lead to higher grocery prices for consumers, Rogers pointed out.

“You know, it’s not going to affect your food prices right away, you’ll see something probably in January, because we’re talking about next year’s crops. So it’ll cycle like it always does, but agriculture will bounce back. And I’m sure Congress will step up and get this handled as quick as they can," Rogers said.

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