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Rally for Rural America launches new push for farm policy overhaul

WASHINGTON, D.C. >> Nearly 20 producers from the Rocky Mountain region fanned out across Capitol Hill to lobby for new farm policies Wednesday, one day after more than 3,000 producers rallied here to draw attention to the nation’s festering farm crisis.

The ranchers and farmers participating in the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union delegation at the rally called on members of Congress to rewrite the current farm bill, to step up enforcement of antitrust laws, and to provide additional support for new producer-owned cooperative enterprises. They noted that the failure of the current policy has forced Congress to provide an additional $14 billion in emergency assistance over the past two years.

“We don’t like coming back here every year asking for money. It’s not good policy, and it’s not sustainable for agriculture. We need a farm policy that supports our commodity prices in the marketplace,” said Tom Lauridson, a Colorado wheat producer who serves as the vice president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

Jim Brophy, a diversified producer from Yuma, Colo., added, “I’ve been in the farming business for 50 years, and I’ve never seen commodity prices so low. Surely, we can do better.”

A better farm policy was the theme that penetrated most of the speeches at Tuesday’s Rally for Rural America, organized by the National Farmers Union and 30 other agricultural, religious and labor organizations.

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-MN, a prime force behind the rally, drew a boisterous response when he told the 3,000 rally participants, “We are not going to stop fighting until there is justice for rural America. That’s why we are here!”

Sen. Wellstone noted, “Farmers cannot afford to wait any longer. It is past time to rewrite the farm bill. If we put this off any longer, it will be too late for rural America.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, added, “We’ve got to take this 1996 Farm Bill and toss it onto the junk pile of history, where it belongs.”

Agricultural producers from the Rocky Mountain region noted that the farm bill promised to provide agricultural producers with an opportunity to compete in the marketplace. That marketplace has rapidly disappeared as a handful of large agribusiness corporations now dominate the input, processing and retailing industry.

Fred Macy, a Pine Bluffs, Wyo., livestock producer noted, “One report came out recently that documented that independent producers were receiving less for their animals than were producers dealing on contracts with the big packing companies. Yet, they tell us that there is no price discrimination in the marketplace. That’s nuts.”

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