America’s rural main streets in need of attention

America's rural main streets in need of attention
We have a crisis of enormous proportions across a large swath of America. �South Dakota is virtually the epicenter of what has been a chronic and persistent drought for many years. It has been devastating to our main streets and to the economy of our entire region.

This summer, I joined with my colleague, Senator Thune, on a joint drought tour around portions of South Dakota that have been worst hit.�It was evident that the need for assistance was urgent.

We saw herds being sold off entirely, and calves being sold prematurely. We saw areas where the corn was perhaps six inches high. �Farming operations – good operations ��that have been in the family for generations are in great jeopardy.

The White House, however, continues to oppose meaningful assistance for this crisis.�The Senate passed disaster relief for the 2005 drought as part of the supplemental appropriations bill. Unfortunately, when the bill went to the House, agriculture disaster assistance was largely stripped out because of White House opposition.�The Administration even threatened to veto money for our troops in Iraq if the supplemental measure contained any assistance for the crisis our rural communities are facing. We provided money to rebuild Iraq and money to rebuild communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but there is a lack of regard from this White House for the crisis that exists in rural America.

I am working with my colleagues to pass agriculture disaster relief on the Agriculture Appropriations bill, but debate on that measure has been delayed until after the election. We should have stayed in session to get work done.�When we return after the elections, it is my hope that Majority Leadership will allow this bill to be considered with due process, without holding up the bill or stripping out our assistance package behind closed doors.

My colleagues and I have also worked to reduce the cost of this effort, to meet some of the objections that have been raised by the White House and by USDA.

We most recently introduced a bill that addresses the entire nation for multiple drought years.�It would cost the equivalent of just two weeks' expenditure in Iraq.� The majority party, however, has obstructed efforts for full and fair consideration of this legislation in the Senate.

It is important that the White House and Congress recognize that droughts are disasters, just as much as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Just as Americans come together to deal with disasters that occur in other parts of the country, we need to come together on this disaster in the heartland as well.

We are now at the final shred of time left in this Congress. The November session presents our last remaining opportunity to secure meaningful drought relief this year. It is my hope we can set aside partisan politics and appreciate the losses that are being sustained by American farmers and ranchers and on American main streets.�It needs an American response. ��It is my hope that the White House will recognize that the impacts of the drought are severe and persistent.

The administration is talking about rebuilding Iraqi agriculture in rural communities.�But we have American farmers and ranchers and American main streets that need some attention, and that need for attention is urgent.

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