WASHINGTON - Oregon senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced an amendment Wednesday to a disaster aid bill now before the Senate to help fund recovery efforts for ranchers, fruit growers and farmers affected by this year's historic wildfires and drought.
Merkley and Wyden stressed the historic nature of the summer's wildfires and drought across the country and the lack of action from the federal government to help with disaster relief.
"It has been months since Southeastern Oregon was ravaged by wildfires and Oregon farmers and ranchers are still waiting for help from the federal government," said Merkley. "It is crucial that we put together a disaster relief package that will help those families who have lost livestock, crops and pasture land."
"Wildfires this summer crossed a drought-stricken landscape in southeastern Oregon," said Wyden. "The fires destroyed critical livestock grazing land, and with the high cost of feed, put some ranchers at risk of losing their livelihoods altogether. In the months that have passed, Congress has not acted. It is past the time to get the aid to those who need it."
Earlier this year, the senators worked with Agriculture Chair, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), to pass an extension in the Senate Farm Bill for crucial disaster relief programs to help Oregonians affected by wildfires and drought.
However, the House has not taken up the Farm Bill, and affected Oregonians have been left without assistance.
The Senate is currently working on a supplemental appropriations bill to address disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The amendment, modeled from legislation Merkley and Wyden introduced earlier this year and developed together with Stabenow, would create a more comprehensive disaster relief package that would help Americans across the country who are dealing with the aftermath of drought and wildfire.
The amendment would help reimburse ranchers, fruit growers, and farmers for lost crops, livestock, and damaged land caused by the large wildfires and drought. It would complement $25 million already in the supplemental appropriations bill for the Emergency Conservation Program that helps Oregon farmers and ranchers who lost fences in the wildfires from the summer.
Merkley and Wyden were joined by cosponsoring Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Max Baucus (D-MT).