Next week, people all across America will sit down to share a bountiful meal with family and friends.  The tables will be set, the turkeys will be carved, and the pies will be baked.  Thanksgiving is an important reminder of how blessed we truly are to be able to count on this country’s harvest.

America’s farmers deliver for us, and in times of great need, we should be willing to help them.

When an agricultural disaster hits, Congress is generally forced to cobble together stopgap, makeshift aid packages for farmers.  This assistance has historically been slow and inefficient.  It is clear that this process is simply not working.  So last month, I led the Finance Committee in creating a permanent disaster trust fund. This fund will allow Congress to respond to agricultural disasters more effectively and responsibly.

You don’t have to own a John Deere to know that when disaster strikes, there are still bills, salaries, and mortgages to pay.  Right now, it can take months, and even years, for disaster assistance to finally reach farmers and ranchers across the country.  A permanent trust fund will ensure that the USDA has the funds to quickly respond to farmers in need, keeping farmers and their families afloat.  Instead of an ad-hoc package, the trust fund will ensure that we provide swift assistance that will accurately reflects farmers’ losses.  That’s good for farming families and for taxpayers.

The trust fund also sets up a number of safeguards, so that taxpayers can rest assured that their tax dollars are funding disaster assistance wisely and responsibly.  The trust fund requires participants to purchase a high level of crop insurance.  It makes payments based on actual -- not estimated -- losses.  And it requires each individual farmer to document losses to receive payment.

During the Thanksgiving season, we should recognize the hard work of America’s farmers. And creating a true safety net for agricultural disasters will show our thanks and give farmers the peace of mind that they deserve all year long.

Sen. Baucus is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.