DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “The White House has refused to respond to questions about why the Obama administration may be able to find $1.5 billion to fund ad-hoc ag disaster aid but cannot find funding to pay a settlement in a discrimination case against black farmers.
“John Boyd, president and founder of the National Black Farmers Association, issued a news release Wednesday wanting to know why the administration can find money for a disaster program, but not the $1.2 billion needed to settle discrimination claims.”
Yesterday’s DTN article indicated that, “In response to emailed questions from DTN on Tuesday asking for comment on the ad-hoc disaster funding and black farmer’s settlement, a White House spokesperson responded, ‘Off the record — you can say that the White House did not respond for comment.’
“DTN tried again on Thursday to get a comment from the White House or USDA, but was unsuccessful.”
Mr. Clayton pointed out that, “A report last week from the Environmental Working Group showed some farmers could gain far more from Lincoln’s proposal than from the Supplemental Revenue assistance program, or SURE.
“Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook today wrote to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) challenging the rationale for the White House’s promise to fund an agriculture disaster aid package sought by embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“The letter, addressed to OMB’s Acting Deputy Director Robert Nabors, says the White House proposal violates key principles that make for effective and equitable farm disaster aid and threatens to repeat the mistakes of ‘ill-conceived and poorly administered farm disaster aid programs’ of the past that ‘trample sound policy en route to ransacking the Treasury.’ The letter also raises question about the threshold for receiving aid in Lincoln’s plan and what funds will be used.”
The article added that, “OMB Acting Deputy Director Robert Nabors wrote Lincoln that he was following up on the conversation Lincoln had with [White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel] ‘regarding the administration’s commitment to provide much-needed agriculture disaster assistance to rural Americans, specifically our nation’s farmers and the rural economies they support.’
“‘I want to assure you that the administration is committed to providing assistance consistent with your legislative proposal by the end of the month,’ Nabors wrote. ‘OMB and USDA are aware of existing authorities and are currently reviewing the most appropriate manner by which to provide such assistance. We are currently evaluating options to ensure compliance with existing laws, ease of administration, and effectiveness of targeting the assistance to those in need.’
“House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has questioned whether USDA had the authority to provide the aid.”