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Delegation of 16 head for Washington

WASHINGTON—Plunging commodity prices, skyrocketing fuel costs, and unprecedented market concentration will put the nation’s rural crisis at center stage at the “Rally for Rural America” set for March 20-21, 2000, in Washington, D.C. A local group of 16 farmers and ranchers will join more than 1,500 others from around the country at the U.S. Capitol to call on Congress to invest in rural America’s future.

The event is being organized nationally by nearly 40 farm, religious, labor and rural development organizations concerned that rural America has been left behind during this time of record prosperity. Participants will urge Congress to open the “Freedom to Farm” program to revamp federal farm and rural policies.

“The purpose of the rally is to show Congress that we can no longer stay the course,” said RMFU President Dave Carter. “Our nation’s farm and rural policies have not worked as they should. While most of America has reaped the benefits of the strong economy, rural Americans are facing their toughest times in recent memory. We all have a stake in a strong future for rural America and we will send a message to Congress that our farm and rural policies must be revamped.”

Extraordinarily low crop and livestock prices since 1997 and lack of competition in agricultural markets have jeopardized farm and ranch families as well as small businesses, schools, hospitals, and other key enterprises in rural communities across the nation. The deepening economic crisis has led to a loss of family farmers and ranchers and rippled throughout rural communities, fueling a decline in businesses and jobs on rural main street, an erosion of health care, education and rural infrastructure and putting enormous emotional stress on rural families.

Rally participants will urge Congress to open up the farm bill and reform rural policies to alleviate the price crisis, ensure fair and open markets and pursue fair trade.

The centerpiece of the gathering will be a noon rally at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, March 21. That morning, a prayer breakfast will be held near Capitol Hill.

On Monday, March 20, a farmer’s share luncheon will be held with Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to highlight the low prices farmers receive for their commodities compared to food prices at the retail level. A town hall meeting on the rural crisis with members of Congress and the administration will follow that afternoon.

National organizations coordinating the rally include (in alphabetical order):
AFL-CIO;
American Agriculture Movement;
American Beekeeper Alliance;
American Corn Growers Association;
American Sugar Alliance;
Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association;
Campaign to Reclaim Rural America;
Communicating for Agriculture;
Community Harvest;
Consumer Federation of America;
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;
FARM: Farmers, Agribusiness, Ranchers and Merchants;
Farm Aid;
Federation of Southern Cooperatives;
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy;
Mennonite Central Committee;
National Association of Agriculture Educators;
National Association of County Officials;
National Association of Farm Service Agency County Office Employees;
National Catholic Rural Life Conference;
National Consumers League;
National Family Farm Coalition;
National Farmers Organization;
National Farmers Union;
National Milk Producers Federation;
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association;
Partners for Rural America;
Presbyterian Church USA;
Rural Action Caucus;
Rural Coalition;
Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative;
Southwest Peanut Growers;
UNITE!;
United Methodist Board, Church and Society;
Virginia and Carolina Peanut Growers;
Women Involved in Farm Economics.
RALLY FOR RURAL AMERICA on the Internet: www.RallyforRuralAmerica.org