DES MOINES, IA (DTN)--As Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-IA, called for a hearing on disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers Sept. 4, the Senate leader, Tom Daschle, D-SD, proposed a disaster aid package while speaking on the floor of the Senate.

Daschle is proposing a disaster aid package similar to the $5 billion one offered this summer. The assistance would cover losses from 2001 and 2002.

The new assistance plan was presented as an amendment to an Interior Department funding bill. The money would come out of the fiscal 2002 funds, according to Daschle's statement. However, this idea of funding is sure to get the attention of President George W. Bush, who has stated over and over again his opposition to funding disaster assistance with anything other than farm bill money.

Even though Daschle said during his speech that farm bill money would not be touched, the agriculture committee would be ultimately in charge of deciding that.

Meanwhile, after canceling a hearing this week on the implementation of the farm bill, during a teleconference Sept. 4 with farm broadcasters Harkin announced a hearing has been schedule for next week and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman is expected to testify. During that hearing Harkin plans to have Veneman explain the Bush administration's stance on funding for disaster assistance.

"The short week is delaying the hearing until this, but a plan on disaster assistance will be discussed then," said Harkin.

Harkin said his office has received a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating Bush's desire for a disaster assistance package that is not paid for by funds from the farm bill.

"Those two ideas are conflicting and I want Veneman to clarify this," said Harkin.

Harkin added, "The way the Loan Deficiency Program (LDP) is set-up we could have a savings from that program this year, we should be using that money to help disaster assistance."

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