- Bill includes millions for California agricultural disaster relief -
Apr 24 2007
Washington, DC – The conference report on the Fiscal Year 2007 Supplemental Appropriations Bill approved today by House and Senate negotiators includes $94.1 million to repair California levees, $60.4 million in disaster relief for salmon fishermen in California and Oregon, millions of dollars of agricultural relief for California citrus and dairy farmers, and $425 million in funding for a one-year extension for the Secure Rural Schools Program, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced.
The report also includes a provision sponsored by Senator Feinstein that would prevent Mexican trucking companies from gaining unrestricted access to U.S. highways until American truckers are afforded the same access in Mexico. And there is $12 million included for drug eradication efforts on U.S. Forest Service lands.
The conference report will now be sent to the House of Representatives and the Senate for up-or-down votes. Once the report has been approved by both Chambers, it will be sent to the President for his signature or veto.
Restoring California Levees: $94.1 million
The conference report includes $94.1 million to help shore up California’s critical levee system. These emergency funds are designated for use by the Army Corps of Engineers to repair 213 sites on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers that were damaged by winter and spring storms in 2006. These storms resulted in federal disaster declarations.
“California’s levees are the State’s first line of defense against catastrophic flooding,” Senator Feinstein said. “The $94.1 million included in this conference report will ensure that the Army Corps of Engineers has the funds necessary for the 213 levee sites that were damaged in the storms of January and April 2006 – and are still in need of repair. This will help protect countless lives and millions of dollars of property in the Sacramento/Delta region.”
Salmon Fishermen Disaster Relief: $60.4 million
The conference report includes $60.4 million for salmon fishermen, tribes, and related businesses in California and Oregon impacted by last year’s fishery failure on the Klamath River.
“The Klamath River salmon fishery disaster was the largest commercial fishery failure on record,” Senator Feinstein said. “The $60.4 million of disaster relief included in the conference report will help ease the financial burden faced by California fishermen and their families who are still struggling to get back on their feet.”
In August 2006, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez declared a Commercial Fisheries Failure off the coasts of California and Oregon. This was only the second time ever that the Secretary of Commerce declared a commercial fishery failure before the fishing season had ended, which underscores the magnitude of the disaster.
Early data for this year has not been promising for reopening the fishery. Even if restrictions are lifted, fishermen who saw no income last year have no funds for engine overhauls, equipment, and other repairs necessary to go to sea. This disaster relief funding will assist them with these items and get them back to sea once the fishery is reopened.
Disaster Relief for Farmers and Dairymen: $3.5 billion nationwide
The conference report includes $3.5 billion nationwide for agricultural disaster relief. California farmers and dairymen will be eligible to apply for:
- $1.85 billion for crop loss compensation nationwide,
- $1.41 billion for livestock loss compensation; and
- $21 million for farm workers assistance grants.
The disaster assistance funding also specifically includes compensation for California’s recent crop and livestock losses, including:
- $20 million for dairy milk loss due to the 2006 heat wave; and
- $20 million to rehabilitate orchards damaged by the 2007 freeze.
“California’s citrus and dairy industries are still trying to recover from the tremendous financial losses caused by recent extreme weather events,” Senator Feinstein said. “The millions of dollars of agricultural disaster relief included in the conference report are essential to helping California’s citrus and dairy farmers on the path to economic recovery.”
Secure Rural Schools Program: One-Year Extension
The conference report provides a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act. Specifically, the measure provides $425 million of emergency funding for a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Program. This is in addition to the $100 million that would otherwise have been available from timber harvest receipts.
“Without the one-year extension included in this conference report, California could stand to lose up to $57 million of funding to vital school and road improvement projects in 2007 alone,” Senator Feinstein said. “So, the $425 million of emergency funding included in the conference report is critical to the financial health of school districts in California’s most rural communities, including Siskiyou, Trinity, Plumas, Shasta, and Lassen counties. A one-year extension will help provide these communities some additional time to plan for the future.”
Last year, California’s rural counties received a total $69 million under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act. For example:
- Siskiyou County received $9.58 million;
- Trinity County: $7.99 million;
- Plumas County: $7.5 million;
- Shasta County: $4.15 million; and
- Lassen County: $4.01 million.
Unless the program is extended, counties in California would receive only approximately $12 million from forest timber receipts, or less than 20 percent of current funding. Without an extension of the program, California could stand to lose $57 million for schools and road projects in 2007 alone.
The conference report also includes a provision offered by Senator Feinstein that would prevent Mexican trucking companies from gaining unrestricted access to U.S. highways until American truckers are afforded the same access in Mexico.
The prohibition on increased access for Mexican trucks would be lifted when American trucks are given equal access on a similar timetable to Mexican highways.
At issue: A one-year pilot program, announced February 23 by the U.S. Department of Transportation, to allow 100 Mexican trucking companies unrestricted access to U.S. highways. American trucks would not be granted full access to Mexican highways for approximately six months, while the Mexican government gathers information and determines which American companies will be granted access to Mexico.
“I strongly urge the Department of Transportation to reconsider plans to move forward with this program until both Mexican trucks and U.S. trucks can be given access at the same time,” Senator Feinstein said. “The whole basis of this program is to promote fairness. But the arrangement is patently unfair if Mexican trucks are given access to our markets many months ahead of American trucks gaining access to Mexico. This must be a reciprocal arrangement. To hold American truckers back for many months clearly gives one side an unfair advantage. This is a serious flaw that should be addressed.”
Marijuana Eradication on Forest Service lands: $12 million
The conference report includes $12 million to the U.S. Forest Service to combat drug trafficking on federal lands. These funds would be used by the Forest Service for upgraded equipment and training, and to allow for better interagency coordination with DEA, Border Patrol and other federal and state agencies.
In 2006, federal authorities seized nearly three million marijuana plants from public lands, a harvest with a potential street value of between $10 and $15 billion. Approximately half of these plants were found in California.
“Drug trafficking in America’s national forests is a serious issue, particularly in California. The conference report includes $12 million to help the U.S. Forest Service combat this growing problem,” Senator Feinstein said.