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Farmers and ranchers head to Washington

DENVER—Fifteen Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) members from Colorado and Wyoming will depart Sept. 8 to attend National Farmers Union’s (NFU) annual legislative fly-in, Sept. 9-12, in Washington, D.C. The RMFU delegation will join farmers and ranchers from throughout the nation to lobby members of Congress and the Bush administration for better federal farm policies.

“It is a critical time for this grassroots lobbying effort since the House Agriculture Committee has already sent an undesirable farm bill to Congress,” said Dave Carter, RMFU president. “We hope to convince members from both the House and Senate to adopt a farm bill that provides a reasonable safety net for family producers rather than continuing the failed ‘freedom to farm’ program.”

The RMFU members will attend educational briefings to familiarize themselves with the details of the NFU farm bill proposal and the procedure and players involved in passing and implementing farm policies. They will then meet with various agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. In addition, Farmers Union members plan to visit with every congressional office prior to their Sept. 12 departure. Those representing Colorado include: Will-Lee Ashley, Denver; Krista Algien, Meeker; Ray and Sue Baer, Wiggins; David Carter, Westminster; David Dechant, Ft. Lupton; Holly Ferguson, Holyoke; David Foy, Otis; Kaprice Franke, Akron; Sue Jarrett, Wray; Jed Lake, Meeker; Kurtis Millage, Holyoke; Bud Pekarek, Burlington; and John Stencel, Parker. Representing Wyoming is Mike Gardner, Pine Bluffs.

The current farm bill was enacted in 1996 when total U.S. net farm income peaked at nearly $55 billion, with just 13 percent or $7.3 billion coming from government payments. By 1999, downward pressure on commodity prices resulted in total U.S. net farm income dropping to $43.4 billion with nearly half or $20.6 billion of this amount coming from government programs and emergency assistance.

The NFU farm bill proposes to strengthen market prices and enable producers to get more of their income from the market by increasing loan rate levels and establishing a limited farmer-owned reserve. The NFU farm bill proposal also addresses market concentration, environment, energy and renewable fuels.

The NFU farm bill would cap, or limit, the amount an individual producer could receive in federal farm program assistance, correcting the current program that allows for large amounts of federal funds to go to a single individual.

“Farmers Union is providing one of the least cost yet comprehensive farm bill programs of any organization, which ought to appeal to members of Congress from both sides of the aisle,” Carter said. “Our goal at this fly-in is to point out these features to lawmakers.”