Senate Delays Vote On Farm Disaster Aid

Senate Delays Vote On Farm Disaster Aid WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday put off a vote on $5.5 billion in disaster aid for farmers across the plains, scheduling a vote instead for next Tuesday.

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., who has pushed for the money, said he was optimistic the Senate would pass the measure, which would mean about $300 million for northwest Minnesota farmers ravaged by flooding.

Earlier this summer, Wellstone and Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., threatened to block any disaster aid that did not include the $5.5 billion. Wellstone said he was able to persuade Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., to add the provision to an amendment for firefighter aid this week.

The amendment is part of a bill funding the Interior Department.

The White House has opposed any additional farm aid, arguing that the farm bill President Bush signed this year has enough money to cover disaster needs as they arise. A White House spokesman reiterated that view on Thursday, calling the farm bill ??very generous.''

Wellstone predicted a close vote.

??This is hugely important'' for farmers in northwest Minnesota, he said. ??Otherwise they have no future. It's over.''

In addition to aiding Minnesota farmers hit by flooding, the money would go to drought-ravaged parts of South Dakota, Montana and other states.

In an issued statement, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said he was "outraged" by the the delay.

"The merits of this proposal are clear," he said in a press release. "I hope enough Republican senators will put policy before politics so that farmers and ranchers suffering from the drought can receive relief similar to that which has been provided to flood victims in Texas."

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