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Farmers win against the odds in 1999

(Cheyenne) Despite falling commodity prices and an increase in farm bankruptcies, farmers and ranchers should be proud of their accomplishments this year. “As we head into a new millennium we should look at the contributions we have made in the face of all the challenges,” said Leland Swenson, president of National Farmers Union, here today during the 91st annual Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) convention. “We knew that Congress was giving a lot of lip service to rural America,” Swenson said. “So we got 27 agricultural producer groups together and came up with principles of agreement on a safety net for the farm economy, risk management (crop insurance), market concentration and trade issues.” These groups also agreed to support $6 to $8 billion in economic assistance because we could see that the reforms that we needed were not going to happen in time to help farmers, Swenson said. “And we succeeded in getting $8.7 billion in economic and disaster assistance. And just last week we got another $500 to $800 million as Congress wrapped up their budget talks.” Another success was the establishment of mandatory price reporting. “Now, twice a day meat packers will have to report on what they pay when they purchase for slaughter. And we made sure that the dollars for U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce this rule are there,” Swenson said. While farmers need to take pride in their accomplishments, there is still much to be done according to Swenson. The current farm bill is not working for America’s farmers and ranchers. Farmer income and exports are both down 18 percent since 1996. And the ratio of prices received by farmers to prices paid by farmers has declined by 10 percent since 1996. “We need to keep these farm organization’s (that are supposed to represent the independent producer) feet to the fire,” Swenson said. “Just last week Senator Paul Wellstone’s bill to place a moratorium on agribusiness mergers was up for a vote. And several farm groups, whose members are very concerned about market concentration in agribusiness, sent a letter to the Senate asking for a “no” vote. They sold out the American family farmer and their members ought to tell them what they think about that.” Swenson closed by encouraging farmers to get involved in the debate on U.S. farm policy that will open up in 2000. “Our domestic farm policy has left us with no tools to respond to an unstable global economy. We all have a stake in the future structure of our farm policy. Let’s make sure we work together to solve our nation’s rural economic ills.”