"These payments, which are being made under the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003, will directly benefit cotton producers," Veneman said. "USDA is committed to providing these disaster program benefits to producers as quickly as possible."

USDA’s average payment rate is $7.75639 per ton of cottonseed on 6,439,849 tons or approximately $2.99 per average weight bale. The payment rate was based on the quantity of cottonseed that USDA estimates to have been produced from the bales and lint weight certified on the applications received from ginners.

Applications were mailed to 899 domestic cotton ginners. Payments are being made to cotton ginners because they usually retain proceeds from the sale of the cottonseed. Similar to prior programs, ginners agreed to share payments with the cotton producers to the extent that the low cottonseed prices were borne by the producers rather than the ginner.

The Act, signed into law on Feb. 20, 2003 authorizes total disaster aid for producers suffering from natural disaster and related conditions. Key provisions reimburse producers for crop losses in either 2001 or 2002. USDA has designated $250 million for the Livestock Assistance Program (LCP); $60 million for sugarcane producers; $60 million for sugar beet producers; an estimated $53 million for tobacco producers; and $50 million for the cottonseed industry.

LCP sign-up began on April 1 and was to end early June; LCP payments began May 5. The Tobacco Payment Program sign-up ended May 16 and payments began May 13, one week ahead of schedule.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has developed a Web site that provides producers with one convenient location for details on new and existing FSA disaster assistance. The Web site can be accessed at http://www.usda.gov/ or at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov/.