Iowa Public Television


Political current charges drought debate

posted on September 6, 2002

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.

The lingering economic question of the summer has been "Is the nation in recovery?" Government numbers out this week would seem to answer, "No."

The Labor Department says second quarter productivity at U.S. companies grew at its most sluggish pace in a year. Spending on construction projects in July went flat. And though manufacturing activity grew in August, it did so at a pace below analysts' expectations.

Expectations in the commodity markets currently hinge on the withering effects of the drought. And for many producers plagued by the hot, dry summer, hope now relies on a politically motivated Congress.


Political current charges drought debate

In a classic election year face-off, lawmakers this week debated the cost and the method by which they could provide federal aid to drought-stricken farmers and ranchers.

Democrats in the Senate are seeking up to $5 billion in supplemental funding. Some Republicans have offered smaller bailout packages. But the White House has declined to support added drought assistance … and says any financial aid must come from the farm bill signed last May.

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-MN: "The whole question of offsets, we haven't done offsets for disaster relief assistance before. I mean this is just something that happens and we know that when it happens we provide the help."

About half of the nation has suffered some form of drought this summer. Hot and dry weather has stunted crop development in the Great Plains and Western Corn Belt, causing billions of dollars in losses.

Legislation sponsored by Democrats, who are looking to expand their Senate majority in November elections, would offer $5 billion to cover agricultural losses over the past two years.

That's put pressure on some Republicans to oppose the White House and support the bill, since the most severe drought is in states largely represented by members of the GOP.


Tags: agriculture crops disaster relief drought news politics weather