Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flood Bill Hits Snag Down on the Farm Sen. Bond Wants Agricultural Relief

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flood Bill Hits Snag Down on the Farm Sen. Bond Wants Agricultural Relief

Article excerpt

A dispute over how to treat sheds and other agricultural structures in the nation's flood plains has touched off a fight in a House-Senate panel seeking to reform the nation's flood insurance program.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., wants to exempt barns, sheds and other farm structures from flood-insurance requirements that could force farmers to build such buildings as high as 12 feet off the ground.

"Requiring agricultural structures to comply with the law will make normal farming operations very difficult," Bond said. "That's a real slap in the face to farmers. I have no intention of taking that. That is really far- fetched."

House Banking Committee aides, who are pushing to include farm buildings in the reform bill, said an exemption for farmers could "create a loophole that could grow and become the exception that swallows the law."

"It sets a dangerous precedent and puts the law on a slippery slope," said one committee aide to Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass. "I could hear members of Congress from the East Coast coming to us next year and saying, `You did it for farm structures, now do it for fishing structures.'

"More fundamental," the aide said, "is the fact that there has been no showing that farmers have been hurt. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has never penalized one community that allowed a farmer to rebuild after a flood to the same specifications as before the flood."

After last summer's flooding in the Midwest, FEMA granted local governments the authority to waive requirements to elevate agricultural buildings that were severely damaged in the floods.

The head of the Federal Insurance Administration said at the time that his agency, which oversees the national flood insurance program, recognized that "it would be quite a task to elevate some of those buildings."

Farmers who chose to rebuild without elevating or flood-proofing were warned that they would have to pay higher premiums to insure their sheds and barns against floods. Many do not bother to seek flood coverage for outbuildings.

Bond said he was seeking a compromise that would require farmers who borrow money to build farm structures to pay actuarial rates - with no government subsidy - to insure them against floods. …

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