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Frustration mounts as disaster assistance stripped

DENVER– Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) President John Stencel has sent letters to Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Wayne Allard, R-Colo., expressing his organization’s frustration with the House-Senate conference committee’s decision to strip $3.9 billion approved by the U.S. Senate for disaster assistance. The committee plans to finalize the fiscal year 2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill this evening.

Stencel urged Domenici and Allard, members of the conference committee, to step up to the plate in support of farmers and ranchers across the nation: “Producers who have been hit hard and are suffering economically from a variety of natural disasters desperately need disaster assistance. Producers in many parts of Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico are in their third, fourth or even fifth year of drought and cannot remain viable without disaster assistance.”

In Stencel’s letter, he clearly stated RMFU’s support for disaster assistance for farmers, ranchers, small businesses and communities hit by Hurricane Katrina, but notes that it is ridiculous to ignore producers suffering other types of disasters, noting that producers also are having to deal with skyrocketing energy costs. “We respect your commitment to fiscal restraint, yet we find billions and billions of dollars day after day to assist those in need around the world,” Stencel wrote. “We ask that you give the American farmer and rancher the same consideration in the fight for their continued existence and the opportunity to produce food and fiber, not only for the American consumers but consumers around the world.”

RMFU is urging the conference committee to accept an amendment that will be offered by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., to restore disaster assistance funding and apply it to all natural disasters.

“The action this evening will be one of the most important votes you make, Senator, as this decision has a tremendous impact on the livelihoods of many American family farmers and ranchers,” Stencel wrote in his letter to both Allard and Domenici.