Leahy says Republicans to blame for disaster relief delay

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(Host) According to Senator Patrick Leahy, a plan to provide $54 million in disaster relief funds to Vermont dairy farmers may be postponed until next year.

Leahy is blaming Republican leaders in Congress for the delay.

Vermont agriculture officials say this situation could result in some farmers going out of business.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Congress has failed to pass most of its 2007 appropriations bills and instead has passed what are known as “continuing resolutions” which carry forward previous funding levels but don’t allow for any additional funding.

Republican leaders say they’ll continue this practice when Congress wraps up its work next week. This decision will put responsibility on the Democrats to pass new budgets in January and the disaster relief initiative will be postponed for a number of months.

Senator Leahy, who’s a member of the Appropriations committee, is furious at this turn of events:

(Leahy) “It’s really irresponsible to let it go like this.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says he’ll try to encourage GOP leaders next week to pass the Agriculture Appropriations bill.

(Leahy) “I’m urging them because the Democrats will pass something next year. Why not pass it now and they can share the credit.”

(Kinzel) Deputy Agriculture Secretary David Lane says many Vermont farmers are facing a tough situation:

(Lane) “What we saw was a 40 to 60 % reduction in crops and really poor quality in much of the hay crop this year that translates into higher feed costs from purchasing feed and lower production due to the poorer quality.”

(Kinzel) If the relief plan is delayed, Lane is worried that some farmers will be forced out of business.

(Lane) “The costs are just too high for many of the small farms that have been hit hard to make that decision to borrow more money for feed that they should already have in their silos.”

(Kinzel) The Vermont disaster relief plan is part of a much larger national emergency agriculture funding package.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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