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Farmers and ranchers put their sights on Washington DC

DENVER–As part of National Farmers Union’s (NFU) legislative fly-in, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) members will join more than 250 farmers and ranchers next week in Washington, D.C., Sept.10-13, to encourage members of Congress to address rural concerns. RMFU members will advocate for emergency disaster assistance, renewable energy, fair trade, preventive planting payments and discussions regarding the 2002 farm bill which is set to expire in 2007.

Participants from RMFU include: Jennifer Luitjens Bahr, Parker, Colo.; Lorrie Boyer, Fort Morgan, Colo.; Burt Heckman, McClave, Colo.; John Noffsker, Monte Vista, Colo.; Charles Petty, Clovis, N.M.; Jerry White and Ann Schnelzer, Lingle, Wyo.; John Stencel, Aurora, Colo.; Curtis Temple, Wiley, Colo.; and, Gary and Peggy Wilmoth, Palmer Lake, Colo.

During the NFU legislative fly-in, RMFU members will request that Congress pass emergency disaster assistance before it goes on recess in November. Farmers and ranchers nationwide have experienced overwhelming losses from weather-related disasters in 2005 and 2006. Fly-in participants will renew the call for Congress to help offset the severe losses suffered in those years. “Farmers and ranchers are looking for assistance not covered by crop insurance and the farm program,” said RMFU Executive Director Lee Swenson. “This is not a handout but a chance to cover economic shortfalls. Farmers can’t get loan deficiency payments when they have no crops to take to market.”

RMFU members will also be concentrating on ways to expand family farmer and rancher opportunities with renewable energy. The farmers and ranchers will ask Congress to step up efforts to encourage the use and production of fuels from the farm.

“America’s addiction to foreign oil is not only threatening its national security but has an impact on the emerging U.S. renewable energy sector and our goal of developing and growing America’s energy independence,” said Swenson.

Among several other measures, fly-in participants will ask Congress to expand and accelerate the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) for ethanol, and establish an RFS for biodiesel. Participants will ask senators and representatives to help expand biofuels distribution systems, and provide assistance to farmers and ranchers to mitigate the impact of higher energy prices and declining commodity prices.

“RMFU is focused on ways for farmers and ranchers to benefit from locally owned and operated renewable energy projects,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “U.S. producers are the right group to turn the developing industry into a successful market.”

Colorado participants will be particularly interested in correcting preventive planting programs in order to avoid some the economic shortfalls that have accompanied this year’s drought. This is particularly true in the South Platte River Basin which was excluded from the Preventive Planting Program of the Risk Management Agency.

RMFU members will advocate for legislation that would extend the 2002 farm bill for two years, when the budget and international trade climates are more conducive to writing quality legislation. Farmers and ranchers are concerned that the current political climate may force a new farm bill that does not adequately address all of the titles included in the farm bill. RMFU will be presenting the results of a Farm Bill Listening Session held in August and co-hosted by RMFU and Sen. Salazar, D-Colo. During the session, farmers and ranchers were able to present their views pertaining to all farm bill titles.

“RMFU wants to make sure we don’t piecemeal a new farm bill together to the detriment of family farmers and ranchers,” said Swenson. “Focusing on a limited number of titles could be disastrous, particularly given the hardships seen by farmers and ranchers such as skyrocketing energy inputs, low commodity prices, and weather-related disasters.”