I promised an update to the situation in the Senate when something happened. I waited a few days to see if anything would come of the setback Monday. Here’s where it looks like we stand right now. The farm press and general press have covered the failure of the Senate to pass a cloture vote on Monday this week. That vote would have ended debate on an amendment that replaced the House passed disaster bill with one that was very similar to the bill Senators Perdue, Isakson, Jones and Shelby had crafted. Unfortunately that cloture vote didn’t pass but the vote DID NOT KILL THE BILL as has been reported. I will add that watching the vote Monday, Senator Schumer was the one that cast the deciding vote for non passage. Sixty votes pass so forty-one kills it. He cast the forty-first vote against. If you think this is really about Puerto Rico you’re sadly mistaken.
Changes that had been made to the bill brought in block grants to the states affected by flooding in the Missouri valley. I’m still not clear as to whether that would have reduced our ag portion of the disaster bill or was new money. The idea was that bringing the more recent disasters in would improve chances of passing the bill and it may ultimately do that. The situation is that there is still flooding and they don’t really know the extent of the damage yet. Even with the inclusion of the midwest floods and tornados in Alabama, there will likely need to be a new disaster once the costs are truly known.
The President had agreed to $600 Million in additional food stamp money for Puerto Rico. Regardless of the rhetoric, the government has given somewhere between 41 and 91 BILLION to Puerto Rico already and it has not spent the money already allocated. It is unclear what will satisfy the Democrat demands for additional money for the island territory.
The Senators in the Southeast are pushing hard to get something done by the Easter Break. That gives them the end of this week and next week to find a path forward. Most experts I’ve talked to feel there’s too much damage not to have a disaster bill at some point but no one is betting when that assistance will come. Many they are keenly aware of the pressure facing Southeast farmers, bankers, and other agribusinesses.
I wish I had better news but all I can offer is that a lot of this is up to who and how they can get something done. The politics is disgusting. We can only wait at this point and pray that they can get a compromise worked out.