Merkley to Introduce Bill to Extend Lapsed Disaster Relief Programs Needed for Response to Wildfires

WASHINGTON, DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today announced that he will be introducing a bill this week that would call for key disaster relief programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be extended for one year. These disaster relief programs, which lapsed at the end of 2011, would be able to help those farmers and ranchers affected by the wildfires in Southeastern Oregon. 

“Farmers and ranchers who have seen devastation this week in Southeastern Oregon shouldn’t be penalized because Congress can’t seem to pass the Farm Bill,” said Merkley. “This bill would be a short term reauthorization of disaster relief programs that will help those affected by these wildfires get back on their feet.” 

Key disaster relief programs at the USDA expired at the end of 2011, leaving farmers and ranchers who have lost livestock or grazing land with few options. This bill would extend critical USDA programs, including three that would cover both forage and livestock losses on private land, as well as land leased from the Federal Government. Senator Merkley’s legislation would ensure these disaster relief programs are available to cover the disastrous impacts of the fires in 2012 by providing funding for this year. 

Additionally, today Senator Merkley sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar asking to personally meet with them to determine the full extent of assistance available to those affected by the fires. Full text of the letter is attached.