Key committee approves California freeze, heat disaster funding

The California agricultural community received good news on March 23 in the form of the Senate Appropriations Committee's approval of $140 million in funding for relief related to the January 2007 freeze and $95 million in relief related to the 2006 summer heat wave.

The proposal has already been approved by the House of Representatives, and now heads for a vote by the full Senate.

"The committee's passage of relief funding for California farmers, ranchers, and workers affected by the winter freeze and last summer's heat wave is a welcome response to requests by Governor Schwarzenegger and the California congressional delegation," said California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary A.G. Kawamura.

“Damage from these disasters ranged from lost jobs and wages to lost crops and productivity. Our farmers and their workers provide much of the food that graces our nation's tables, so it is appropriate that we extend this helping hand in their time of crisis," he said.

"At each turn, Governor Schwarzenegger has worked quickly to minimize damage and secure assistance for California agriculture," Kawamura said. "Our state representatives and our congressional delegation have likewise been responsive to these urgent issues, and I thank them for their diligence."

The committee approved the following funding:

- $100 million to help small businesses and farmworkers recover from the 2007 freeze;

- - $40 million for California farmers to rehabilitate or replace citrus trees that were damaged or died as a result of the 2007 freeze; and

- - $95 million for California milk production losses due to the 2006 heat wave.

In addition, the committee approved funding nationwide for disasters that occurred in 2005, 2006, and 2007, which includes California's 2007 freeze and 2006 heat wave. This funding includes $2.09 billion for crop loss compensation and $1.498 billion for livestock loss compensation. Farmers and producers will apply directly to the Farm Service Agency for compensation.

The January 2007 freeze caused more than $1.3 billion in reported damages and loss to the California agricultural industry, $800 million of that from citrus crop alone. Avocado losses totaled $132 million; nursery stock $161 million; strawberries $41 million; and many other commodities suffered losses as well.

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