Momentum is building in Congress to rush billions of dollars in emergency assistance to farmers before lawmakers leave town next month to campaign.

"The question is no longer whether but how we'll address this farm crisis," Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said Thursday.The Republican-controlled Senate defeated a Democratic proposal in July to raise the government's commodity price supports. The move that would have cost taxpayers $1.5 billion.

But with grain prices falling and an election looming, several GOP senators are working on a proposal to increase the government's direct payments to farmers by $2 billion to as much as $5.6 billion.

"In July, the price of corn was $2 (per bushel). Now it's probably $1.65," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. "It's a crisis because the price has gone down more than anyone anticipated."

Growers already are due to get $5.5 billion in direct payments for 1999.