WASHNGTON, DC - In an effort to assist American farmers and ranchers suffering from one of the worst droughts in recent history, the U.S. Senate today passed a bipartisan amendment to the Interior Department Appropriations bill to provide more than $5 billion in emergency drought assistance to farmers and ranchers who have suffered losses. The bill would cover many losses suffered by growers or ranchers in 2001 and 2002 from the drought, affecting many regions in the country, including Delaware. "Many Delaware farmers, particularly our grain and corn producers, have been devastated by drought and this money will help give them some much needed relief," said Senator Biden. "While we can't make it rain, we can help relieve the burden on farmers who have been hit the hardest by this drought." Delaware's Congressional Delegation wrote the USDA in August to expedite Delaware's request to be declared a crop disaster area. Such declaration would make available low-interest loans to farmers hard hit by this drought. "This has been a disastrous year for Delaware farmers, but it was the weather that failed them, not their own efforts," said Carper. "The Senate bill offers needed help to those hardest hit." Agriculture is Delaware's number one industry B of the state's 1.25 million acres, over 470,000 are harvested, ranking Delaware 5th in the Nation with 37.5 percent of the total land area in productive cropland. Earlier this week, precipitation levels across Sussex County were approximately 47% below the normal 43.5 inches for the past 365 days. Kent County and New Castle County both are more than 12 inches short of the average for the year, or about 30% below normal levels. The Delaware USDA State Emergency Disaster Board recently reviewed crop damage assessment reports from the emergency boards in Delaware's three counties. The Board found that the drought has had a major impact on Delaware farmers. Specifically, they found that "an estimated 85% of the farmers in the state have sustained losses in excess of 30% of their expected production of the crop year." The bipartisan drought disaster amendment, passed the Senate by a vote of 79-16. It must now be approved by the House and signed into law by the President. Because of rising crop prices and other factors, the farm bill that passed both houses and was signed by the President is slated to cost roughly $5 billion less than originally thought when enacted. This disaster relief will cost roughly that amount.