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“Keep the border closed!” That’s one of many messages from about 550 farmers and ranchers from across the nation at the National Farmers Union (NFU) 103rd annual convention in Lexington, Ky., Feb. 25-28.
Delegates opposed a U.S. government plan to reopen the border March 7 to live cattle shipments from Canada. Subsequently, the reopening of the border was postponed after U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull granted a temporary court order delaying the government’s plan to re-open the border. In addition, the U.S. Senate rejected the U.S. Agriculture Department’s (USDA) plan to reopen the border to Canadian cattle with a 52-46 vote on a Senate Joint Resolution. A real battle to pass a parallel resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives is expected.
U.S. officials closed the border last year after BSE (or mad cow disease) was discovered in Washington state in a Canadian-born cow. NFU delegates passed a special resolution saying the U.S. government should not allow beef or live cattle imports from any nation with BSE cases until several conditions are met:
• Proof that the exporting nation’s animals and products are BSE-free, and that it complies with a ban on ruminant-to ruminant feeding;
• U.S beef export markets are reestablished and the United States implements mandatory country-of-origin labeling;
• The federal government establishes and fully funds a national animal identification system, with rapid-test technology provided to all U.S. slaughter facilities; and
• An economic safety net is set up to protect U.S. producers from losses if imports from BSE nations drive down cattle prices.
The delegates also declared their resolve to combat market concentration in agriculture by urging Congress to limit the depressing impact of captive cattle supply contracts; to overhaul the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, USDA market reporting provisions and the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act authority; and to implement a national ban on packer ownership of livestock and mandatory country-of-origin food labeling for all food products.
A special order of business was passed encouraging members of Congress to oppose ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Members agreed that the agreement will fail to provide substantial trade opportunities and will negatively impact U.S. farmers. NFU members expressed particular concern about the potential impact of CAFTA on sugar producers, as its provisions will result in a one-third increase in sugar quotas in the first year, increasing another 50 percent over 15 years. This not only threatens the U.S. sugar production industry and its infrastructure, but also will result in increased production of alternative crops often in oversupply such as wheat, corn, soybeans and potatoes, causing a reduction in their prices.
The membership also adopted a special policy position rejecting the proposed cuts to agricultural programs. NFU President Dave Frederickson said the cuts would ravage the federal farm income safety net and diminish the positive benefits of rural development, risk management, conservation and research programs.
Delegates from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union included: Armando Valdez and Darrick Fehringer, Ft. Collins, Colo.; Fred Macy, Pine Bluffs, Wyo.; Roland Naibauer, Kersey, Colo.; Lawrence Gallegos, Antonito, Colo.; Barb Marty, Henderson, Colo.; Roberta Wallace, Pueblo West, Colo.; Linda Iungerich, Ft. Morgan, Colo.; Jessica Brophy, Eckley, Colo.; Masyl Jarrett, Wray, Colo.; Charles Klaseen, Crawford, Colo.; and Wade Wilson, Lewis, Colo. There were also 16 additional RMFU members in attendance.
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