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Congressional action demanded on ag policy

WASHINGTON, D.C.>>As a step toward providing a viable future for American independent agricultural producers, Farmers Union regional leaders from around the nation urged Congress to take immediate action to return competitive forces to the marketplace.

During a three-day meeting conducted here this week, the National Farmers Union (NFU) board of directors requested Congress to:
• enact legislation prohibiting packer ownership of livestock,
• approve appropriations measures to fund programs to test crops for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO); and,
• pass legislation to restore competition to the rail industry.

Dave Carter, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, called the policy directives, “ … three reasonable steps Congress can take before adjourning this year to restore a competitive marketplace for agricultural.”

Farmers Union reaffirmed its longstanding support for competition in agriculture by calling on Congress to approve pending legislation that would bar packers from owning livestock prior to the time of slaughter. “By maintaining a captive supply of livestock, packers can effectively lock out producers from a market process that allows them to receive a fair price for their cattle and hogs,” said NFU president Leland Swenson. “This legislation is needed to allow the livestock producer fair leverage in negotiating price.”

The board also voted to urge Congress to approve an appropriations request of less than $1 million that would fund a program to test crops for the presence of GMO. “The wisdom behind such a testing program is simple,” said Swenson. “Consumers, farmers and others need an objective, reliable certified testing program to determine whether the products they buy or sell have been genetically modified. This measure would enhance the quality assurance program at the Department of Agriculture.”

In addition, NFU will push Congress to pass legislation to restore competition in the railroad industry. “The spate of railroad mergers has left many farmers and ranchers with poor service, excessively high shipping costs and no competing rail service to turn to,” said Swenson. “We rely on the rail industry to provide a vital link that brings food from the field to the tables of the world. Current trends – substandard or lacking service and high costs in some areas – do not promise to help us meet that challenge.”