Salmon aid bill advances

March 23, 2007 12:00 am

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A Senate committee Thursday approved money for California salmon fishermen, citrus growers, milk producers and levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as part of a $122 billion measure wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is $40 million for citrus farmers to replace trees damaged in the five-night freeze in January, $95 million for milk production losses due to the 2006 heat wave and $60.5 million for fishermen along the Northcoast and in Oregon hurt by a sharply curtailed fishing season.

The Army Corps of Engineers would get $94.1 million to repair 213 sites on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers that were damaged by winter and spring storms in 2006.

There's also a total of $2.09 billion for crop loss compensation nationwide for disasters in 2005, 2006 or 2007, and $1.5 billion for livestock loss compensation nationwide for disasters in those years. Producers in California can apply directly to the Farm Service Agency for compensation.

The bill allocates $425 million to fund the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act for one year. That's the program put in place for counties that relied on logging for income and that are now losing money as logging reduces. The program had been set to expire but lawmakers are trying to extend it.

California received $69 million under the program last year and should get about the same amount in 2007 under the bill. Affected counties include Siskiyou, Trinity, Plumas, Shasta and Lassen.

The money was announced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee which approved it as part of a bill that also would set a nonbinding goal of March 31, 2008, for the removal of combat troops from Iraq.

That makes the ultimate fate of the bill uncertain as President Bush has threatened a veto. The bill passed committee on a voice vote.

A similar bill passed the House Appropriations Commit-tee earlier this month and was expected to come to a vote in the full House on Friday. There are differences between the two bills in some of the amounts of money for California, and these would have to be resolved in House-Senate negotiations.

The House bill includes $25 million for spinach growers who suffered losses from last fall's E.Coli scare in the state, which the Senate bill does not, and the House bill does not have any money for levees.

Also, under the House bill only farmers with insurance would be eligible to collect compensation through the disaster loss programs, while the Senate bill makes farmers with insurance eligible for 55 percent compensation and farmers without insurance eligible for 20 percent compensation.