Edward Madigan, the newly confirmed agriculture secretary, says California farmers hurt by drought should not look to Congress for a bailout.
"It would be very difficult to say some years you're going to help people and other years you're not going to," Madigan said Thursday in reference to previous drought relief laws."But the Farmers Home Administration has a number of programs . . . from everything like five-year loans at very low rates of interest to assistance while replanting orchards," he said.
He said farmers who can't plant because of the drought can take their land out of production and still receive 92 percent of their usual federal deficiency payment.
Madigan met reporters after the Senate confirmed him for the nation's top farm job in a 99-0 vote Thursday. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., was absent for the vote.
"Ed Madigan has done more than almost any other member of Congress to bring about American farm policy responsive to changing world markets," said Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
The Illinois Republican has spent 18 years in Congress, including his current role as senior minority member on the House Agriculture Committee.
Madigan, 55, will replace Clayton Yeutter, who is taking charge of the Republican National Committee.
After the vote he talked about some of the challenges:
-Low wheat and dairy prices. Madigan said he would expedite a dairy study due Aug. 1. Dairy prices have fallen 20 percent in the past six months in some regions. On the wheat front, he said he would push for more foreign sales, especially in Kuwait. The government will give wheat farmers $2 billion in deficiency payments this year, compared with $500 million last year.
-International trade talks. "The future for all agriculture commodities is to get back the markets that we enjoyed during the 1970s, particularly the European markets, which we lost because of their desire to be exporters instead of importers," Madigan said.