USDA disaster package won’t provide any relief for wheat growers

The disaster relief package announced Tuesday by Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns will provide no relief to wheat growers because it relies on a farm bill program that hasn’t provided for them since its inception.

“We are very pleased that the Secretary of Agriculture has visited a disaster-hit area, but we are very disappointed with the details of the Secretary’s announcement,” said Dale Schuler, NAWG president and a wheat farmer from Carter, Mont.

“Wheat growers across the country are facing the worst droughts in decades. A much broader, more comprehensive package is needed – now.”

Johanns announced $780 million for disaster relief, $700 million of which will go to producers in the form of advanced counter cyclical payments. The problem: Counter cyclical payments don’t work during times of drought because lack of production drives prices up.

The counter cyclical payment is triggered when crop prices drop. Shortages of wheat caused by drought and other disasters have caused prices to go above the counter cyclical trigger.

Wheat growers have received almost no counter cyclical money since the 2002 farm bill was enacted.

“Wheat growers have received virtually no assistance from the counter cyclical program, or the loan program for that matter, since 2002,” he said. “Basing desperately needed disaster assistance on the counter cyclical program will provide uneven relief, at best.”

“This is based on a program that has not, and this year will not, provide any assistance whatsoever.”

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