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Bush – Tackle Ag Economic Catastrophe

DENVER: President-elect George W. Bush and the newly elected Congress must make the revival of the nation’s agricultural economy among the top priorities as they begin their work early next year, according to Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Dave Carter.

“Agriculture’s lingering economic collapse demands that the new President and the new Congress initiate a complete overhaul of the nation’s farm policy, anti-trust policies, and trade policies,” Carter said, the day after Bush formally claimed victory in the Presidential election.

The regional agricultural leader stressed that writing a new farm bill must move to the forefront of the Congressional agenda in January. “The past four years have demonstrated the failure of the Freedom to Farm Act. This policy – that promised to reduce federal spending and open new marketing opportunities for producers – has accomplished neither goal. We are now operating under the most expensive federal farm policy on record while the market prices farmers are receiving remain mired at historic lows,” Carter said. He noted that the political shift in the U.S. Senate offers the brightest prospect for reforming federal agricultural policies. Several Senate newcomers, including Debbie Stabanow, D-MI, and Mark Dayton, D-MN, are strong critics of the current farm policy. President-elect Bush, however, has not indicated a strong willingness to rewrite the 1996 Farm Bill.

The newly elected President did promote the development of value-added agriculture during the one of the election-season debates. Carter noted, “We hope the new president will utilize his office to strengthen the resources available to farmers and ranchers who are working to develop new producer-owned marketing cooperatives.”

While the new administration and Congress seem unlikely to redirect current international trade policies, Carter said he hoped that anti-trust enforcement would move forward on the federal agenda. “Farmers and ranchers continue to be victimized by the concentration of economic resources at nearly every level of the food chain.”

While concentration and poor farm policy continue to plague rural America, many political leaders still miss the point.

“Some politicians claim that rewriting the Endangered Species Act needs to serve as the first action to assist agriculture. Most ranchers I know are concerned about coyotes stealing a few head of their livestock, but they are more concerned about the big packing companies that come in and steal all of their livestock on a regular basis.”