WASHINGTON – Apple and potato farmers who suffered natural disasters in 1999 and 2000 will be eligible for more than $38 million in emergency assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Funding, announced by Ann M. Veneman, the agriculture secretary, will be distributed from USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp.
“America’s apple growers have lost an estimated $1.7 billion since 1996 – including nearly $700 million during just the past two crop years – due to extreme adverse market conditions,” said U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in a joint press release concerning the disaster aid. “Unfairly priced imports of apple juice concentrate, weather-related disasters, subsidized foreign competition, and increased costs all have contributed to the devastating economic conditions affecting apple producers. We hope the emergency assistance authorized today will prevent farmers from going out of business.”
The senators have advocated the emergency loss assistance, and successfully fought to include an additional $100 million in emergency loss aid in the 2002 farm bill, which is pending in a joint House-Senate conference committee.
Payments authorized by Veneman will be made under USDA’s Quality Loss Program for Apples and Potatoes. By statute, Veneman is limited to authorizing the $38 million in aid, so farmers will receive 27.8 percent of their qualifying losses under the announcement. USDA received total claims exceeding $129 million for emergency funding, Veneman said.
Those needing information on the emergency funding may contact their local USDA Service Center or Farm Service Agency office.