Crop Aid from Easter Freeze Falls Victim to Iraq Dispute

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal aid for specialty crops such as Georgia peaches and Alabama blueberries that were damaged in an April freeze fell victim to the Iraq war debate Wednesday.

Like dozens of other domestic spending initiatives in the legislation, the crop assistance now faces an uncertain future. Some sort of spending package is likely to pass because there is little support for cutting off war funding with troops in battle.

The crop provisions in the spending bill covered losses in 2005, 2006 and early 2007. An initial House version of the measure said only crops damaged before February 28th would be eligible for assistance. But as reports rolled in of widespread crop damage from the Easter freeze, Southern lawmakers pressed in recent weeks to extend coverage.

The latest version of the bill that Congress sent President Bush Wednesday said damaged crops were eligible as long as they were planted before February 28th.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin says it will take a sizable amount of money to cover the losses in the Peach State.

Final estimates aren't in yet, but agriculture officials across the South expect hundreds of (m) millions of dollars in losses from the freeze.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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