Etheridge asks Bush for NC drought relief

Washington, D.C. -— U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) today asked President Bush to request funding for agricultural drought assistance in North Carolina and 11 other states in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

The letter is cosigned by a group of 54 bipartisan members of Congress from the region.

“Farm families, small businesses and entire rural communities face a bleak and uncertain future because of the current drought,” said Etheridge. “Agriculture is the number one industry in North Carolina, employing one-fifth of all residents. Direct disaster assistance is desperately needed to mitigate the effects of this natural disaster.”

Etheridge asked the President to request direct disaster payments to farmers in his supplemental budget request for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The President signed the most recent supplemental budget in May, which included $3 billion in agriculture assistance for droughts, flooding and other declared disasters in 2005, 2006 and 2007. However H.R. 2206 did not include assistance for the current drought.

On September 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 85 counties in North Carolina as primary disaster areas, including all counties in the Second Congressional District. The designation allows farmers in the affected counties to be eligible for low-interest emergency loans from U.S.D.A. Farm Service Agencies. The money Etheridge is requesting would not have to be paid back.

The September Crop Production Report from the USDA found that soybean production is at its lowest yield since 1983 this year and corn yield is down more than 50 percent from 2006.