Senator Tom Harkin — the top-ranking Democrat on the U-S Senate’s Ag Committee — is criticizing the three-billion dollar drought aid package the Senate’s set to vote on later today. The tentative deal is about half what was approved by the Senate when Harkin was chairman of the Ag Committee. Harkin says the money isn’t targeted to farmers hurt worst by the drought. Harkin says farmers who weren’t that hard hit, financially, by the disaster will get payments, and he says that’s a “ridiculous” waste of money. Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell says he has concerns about the budget bill’s impact on drought relief. Boswell says he hasn’t had time to analyze the full impact yet. Boswell says he got a copy of the bill at six this morning, and it appears the drought assistance money is taken straight out of conservation. He says he doesn’t know yet if he’ll be able to support the bill.On another topic, Senator Harkin is among a bipartisan group of lawmakers introducing a bill that would boost production of ethanol and soy-based biodiesel. The “Fuel Security Act of 2003” calls for having at least five billion gallons of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel used each year, starting in 2012.Harkin says boosting the renewable fuels market will also reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.There are four ethanol plants under construction in Iowa, and 11 farmer-owned ethanol plants are already in operation.
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