WASHINGTON, D.C.– Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) members joined farmers and ranchers from around the country here this week in urging Congress to take some immediate steps to alleviate the festering rural crisis before adjourning for the election season. The independent agricultural producers met with members of Congress and administration representatives to push for emergency farm assistance, solutions to the continuing problem of agricultural market concentration, and an ongoing safety net for family farmers and ranchers.
Specifically, the group urged Congress to act on several specific legislative proposals before adjourning for the November elections:
•Passage of $ 1.4 billion in emergency economic assistance proposed by the U.S. Senate for producers suffering continued market price losses and drought-related damage;
•Enactment of legislation to prohibit meat packing companies from owning live cattle, lamb and swine;
•Approval of labeling laws requiring meat products to be identified as to the country of origin; and
•Verification that agricultural trade with China is being conducted according to the terms included in Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.
“Many of the economic difficulties in agriculture today are the result of the failed ‘Freedom to Farm’ policy enacted by Congress in 1996,” said Dave Carter, RMFU president. “Passage of legislation to provide emergency assistance over the next few weeks will help, but we also told our representatives that the first order of business next year should be an overhaul of the ‘Freedom to Farm’ policy.”
Producers from the Rocky Mountain region carried to Capital Hill some vivid illustrations of the economic consequences experienced by producers over the past few years. Michael Gardner, a southeastern Wyoming wheat farmer provided representatives and senators with month-by-month pricing information documenting the decline of wheat prices from $6.50 per bushel to the current level of $2.50 per bushel at the local elevator.
Carter noted, “Congress is recognizing that we have a serious economic crisis in the countryside. We are pleased that lawmakers seem prepared to take some positive action before returning home for elections.”
The RMFU delegation met with representatives from congressional offices of Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. They also met with Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and other top U.S. Department of Agriculture officials during their four-day lobbying trip.