DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) has spearheaded an effort for members of the congressional delegations from Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico to meet with agricultural leaders concerning the financial and emotional devastation to producers as a result of unprecedented drought conditions throughout the region. Also participating in the joint meetings held in Colorado are all of the state’s major agricultural organizations, including the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado Wheat Growers Association, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, and others.
The groups meeting with members of Congress are asking that they support ad hoc disaster assistance for producers suffering economically from the drought. The group has already met with U.S. members of Congress from Colorado Rep. Bob Schaffer, Sen. Ben Campbell, and Rep. Mark Udall. Meetings have been scheduled or are in the works with Sen. Wayne Allard, and Reps. Diana DeGette, Tom Tancredo, Scott McGinnis, and Joel Hefley. In Wyoming, RMFU has met with Sens. Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi, who have pledged some degree of support for disaster assistance. In New Mexico, RMFU has arranged for the group of agricultural organizations to meet with Sen. Pete Domenici, and Rep. Tom Udall and Joe Skeen.
“The elected officials we have met with to date have been 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. “Representative Schaffer has pledged to do ‘whatever needs to be done’ to mitigate the impact of the drought and Senator Campbell has agreed to co-sponsor the Senate bill sponsored by Montana Senators Burns and Baucus calling for emergency disaster assistance.”
The recently-completed wheat harvest is only about one-third of normal, and irrigated producers have had a fraction of the water they normally depend use. Ranchers are selling off their cattle and sheep in unprecedented numbers due to the high cost or unavailability of feed.
Conditions in most of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico are classified as “extreme.” Most farmers and ranchers do not recall ever seeing conditions so dry and can only compare it to what they have heard about the dust bowl days. For some areas throughout RMFU’s tri-state region, 2002, though more severe, is actually the third year of drought.