Many in Washington agree that producers in drought-stricken states should receive some sort of federal aid. What they don’t agree is where that money should come from, and in some cases, who should get it.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) introduced a bill to provide livestock producers with $634 million in federal drought aid. Of course as currently outlined, the funding would be targeted to producers who graze livestock such as cattle and sheep. Funding for the bill would come from cutting spending in the in the new Farm Bill from the subsidy programs but also from erosion- and pollution-control programs—the later being one of the few nuggets for pork producers in the 2002 Farm Bill.

President Bush supports drought aid, but doesn’t want to see it come in the form of emergency spending. Many Democrats disagree, saying a drought is similar to other natural disasters such as a flood or hurricane.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) argues that this year’s drought conditions warrant emergency spending. “The economic impact will be just as catastrophic as Hurricane Andrew was in Florida and the earthquakes were to California a few years ago,” he says. Both of those disasters drew emergency disaster aid.

However, the Bush Administration disagrees that a drought should be treated like any other natural disaster.

Taking money out of the Farm Bill to pay for emergency disaster aid for farmers does not make sense, says Jay Carson, a spokesman for Daschle. It’s like telling a producer that taking money from one hand and putting it in his other hand will make things better.

But, finding programs in the Federal budget that can be trimmed further won’t be any easier.

In the past, providing emergency disaster aid to producers has not been that difficult. However, this year things are different. The budget is tight due to an uncertain economy and the demands of homeland security funding. Also, Bush is reluctant to do more for agriculture since he just signed the new Farm Bill into law.

According to estimates, $5.1 billion to $7.5 billion will be needed to help producers recover from crop and livestock losses. Much of the Midwest has seen an extremely a hot, dry July, which followed a mild winter with light snowfall.

It appears that like the long hot summer’s effects on crops, the congressional battle is going to drag out before the ultimate impact is revealed.