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Ag groups ask Owens’ help with drought

By Marilyn Bay Wentz

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union joined efforts with the Colorado Farm Bureau Sept. 4, to lead a delegation of Colorado commodity organization leaders who met with Gov. Bill Owens. The group thanked him for his help to date and to asked for his leadership in mitigating the impact of the drought on agricultural producers.

“We expressed our appreciation to the governor for requesting designation of all Colorado counties as disaster areas, for his support of capital gains relief to producers forced to sell livestock, and for his strong support of water project financing,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “We also expressed our concern that an estimated 30-40 percent of Colorado family farmers and ranchers could be driven out of business this year in the absence of a significant level of emergency assistance.”

The delegation asked Owens for his strong and immediate support of S.B. 2800, an emergency disaster assistance bill that was passed Sept. 10, by the U.S. Senate. The measure must still be passed by the U.S. House if it is to become law.

“We asked Gov. Owens to urge support of this bill by Colorado’s congressional delegation, President George Bush and the Western Region Governor’s Association,” Stencel said. “We also urged him to provide government help with transportation of livestock feed, drought-related regulatory relief and further tax relief.”

According to Stencel, Gov. Owens’ reaction to the meeting was most favorable. “Gov. Owens understands the depth of the problem and offered to support federal and state legislation that would help farmers and ranchers through the severest of droughts ever experienced by producers.”

Also participating in the meeting were the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Wool Growers, the Colorado Corn Growers, and the Colorado Livestock Association.

In addition to the meeting with Owens, RMFU spearheaded a series of meetings between congressional delegation members from Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico to meet with agricultural leaders concerning the financial and emotional devastation to producers due to the drought. Also participating in the joint meetings were the Farm Bureau and other state commodity organizations.

RMFU and the other ag groups met with U.S. members of Congress from Colorado: Rep. Bob Schaffer, Sen. Ben Campbell, Sen. Wayne Allard, and Reps. Diana DeGette, Mark Udall, Tom Tancredo, and Joel Hefley. In Wyoming, RMFU met with Sens. Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi. In New Mexico, RMFU arranged for the group to meet with Sen. Pete Domenici, and Reps. Tom Udall and Joe Skeen.

“The elected officials we met with were very open to hearing about the gravity of the problems associated with the drought and the impact they will have on producers and rural communities throughout this region,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “We will continue to communicate with them, urging their support of disaster assistance in the U.S. House.”

This year’s wheat production is only about one-third of normal, and irrigated producers have had a fraction of the water they normally use. Ranchers are selling off their cattle and sheep in unprecedented numbers due to the high cost or unavailability of feed. The latest data show that fully one-half of the Colorado cattle herd has been liquidated.