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Livestock producers caught in a Capitol crunch

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(CNN) — Livestock producers suffering through one of the most severe droughts in decades will most likely have to wait until Congress returns from its August recess before getting any new federal disaster assistance.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide tells CNN that the Senate is “unlikely” to take up an aid bill that the House plans to pass Thursday before lawmakers dash out of town for a five-week break.

The aide said the Senate can’t accept the House bill because there are too many differences between it and an-already approved Senate measure, both in terms of who is covered and how the cost of the aid is offset

The drought assistance was part of a broader five-year farm policy bill that got bogged down in the regional and partisan politics of the House, despite major efforts in recent weeks to pass it.

But with mounting pressure from drought-stricken livestock producers, the House decided at the last minute to extend disaster aid just for them before leaving town. The House bill would help cover the cost of livestock loses and the high cost of feed because of the drought.

With bipartisan support earlier this summer, the Senate passed its own five-year farm bill that includes disaster assistance for livestock farmers and ranchers. The Senate has pushed the House to pass its own bill so the two versions could be quickly reconciled and the disaster assistance could once again be available.

Livestock producers are in a different predicament than other farmers because in the last five-year farm bill, the livestock portion was extended for only four years and has now expired.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, warned Tuesday that if the House wanted quick Senate action on that aid, it should pass the Senate’s version of it.

“I think that what the House should do is take the provisions we have in our bill that we sent to them, and if they want to do something about drought relief, send that to us,” Reid said.

But House Republicans decided Wednesday they would pass their own language and then leave it to the Senate. Republicans said Senate Democrats would suffer political consequences if they chose not to pass it.

 

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