Rice Farmers Get Nothing in Farm Disaster Money

(Baton Rouge-AP) -- Louisiana rice farmers won't get any of the $3 billion-plus in disaster money in the new budget bill, even though they've been asking for relief since fall.  State agriculture experts say that plan probably will be the last word on help for farmers this year, especially from President Bush's administration, which many see as unfriendly to agriculture.

The farm disaster money is part of the spending bill passed last week by Congress.  It offers help to farmers who have lost 35 percent or more of their crop.  But rice farmer and U.S.A Rice Federation member John Denison says ten to 15 percent is a crushing loss to many rice farmers.

The farm disaster package's loss threshold is aimed more at farm losses to drought in the Midwest or wet weather in the South.  Rice farmers got most of their crop harvested in 2002.  But prices were the lowest since the 1940s.  Rice does get price supports.  But changes made last summer to the federal Farm Bill limit rice payments and spread those payments out over a longer period of time.