Disaster Legislation Update
Updated: Apr 8, 2019
April 2nd, 2019
By now many of you are probably well aware of the continued stalemate taking place in regards to disaster legislation. While I wish that I could’ve dispersed this update sooner, I’ve spent much of the last 24 hours on the phone with people on both sides of the fence both asking questions and answering them as well. Yesterday the Senate voted to not invoke cloture, or rather not end the debate, on two key pieces of disaster legislation (note that it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture). The first, a GOP proposal, was voted down because it did not do enough in terms of providing disaster funding for Puerto Rico according to Democrats. The measure failed 44 – 69. The second, a bill passed out of the House in January, failed 46 – 48 due to the fact that it did not do enough in terms of including assistance for those who were recently affected by flooding in the Midwest and supposedly included too much in terms of disaster for Puerto Rico for the GOP to swallow.
While my next comment or two most likely will not remedy this situation it should come as a bit of solace. The issues surrounding the inability these pieces of legislation to gain traction have very little if any to do with the amount of funding designated for agricultural losses. As you have probably surmised it is mostly to do with the issue of Puerto Rico. To date, Puerto Rico has received more aid than any other state, territory, or province of this country from any single disaster. They have allegedly mismanaged these funds and to date still have a majority of the original amount appropriated on hand. The President, along with other conservatives, have said that they will not send more aid to Puerto Rico and the Democrats continue to push back on these statements. In sum, our much needed disaster aid is currently in the cross hairs of a major political narrative.
Furthermore, the map included with this update details the counties in the U.S. that received crop insurance indemnities in 2018. I’m sure that you can gather why some of the western counties are color coated red. Their localities are more prone to severe dry weather. However, note the small pockets of red in the South and Atlantic regions. The total area of agricultural areas impacted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael were limited in size. For me, while no excuse, it makes it easier to understand why this battle has been such a tough fight. The amount of people being hurt by the continued postponement of disaster is small in comparison to other political issues. A sense of urgency is lacking.
Now to the question on everyone’s mind, where do we go from here? Unfortunately, no one really seems to know at this point. There are so many diverging narratives in the current political landscape that it is difficult to gain traction. For us, we have to continue to support those who are tirelessly fighting on our behalves but also continue to exert pressure on those who are not. A Senate staffer explained to me today that a move made by Majority Leader McConnell last night to reconsider one of the bills should fast track its’ reemergence in the coming weeks. Additionally, I asked several today if the recent actions meant that we had to start from scratch and the consistent answer was no. That the dust needed to settle and that the fight would resume momentarily.
In terms of the fight, the GPA will be drafting a formal letter to the House and Senate Leadership this week to express our displeasure in the lack of response since the actual event of Hurricane Michael. Countless political leaders journeyed to Georgia in the days and weeks following the storm. All of which promised help and to date very little federal help has arrived. I do understand that other variables are at play, but that does not make up for the fact that a need has not been met.