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Reject proposed ag budget cuts!

DENVER—The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s (RMFU) board of directors urged Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico’s members of Congress to reject the agricultural budget cuts proposed by President George W. Bush.

The president has proposed a budget that would cut more than $5 billion over the next 10 years from programs that help farmers and rural communities survive. In addition to proposed cuts in the farm support program, there are cuts to rural development, conservation and feeding programs. It is the second year in a row that President Bush has proposed big cuts and changes to the 2002 farm bill.

“Commodity prices are stagnant and have actually declined when taking into account inflation, while input costs, such as fuel and fertilizer, have skyrocketed,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “Under the corporate-controlled structure of today’s agriculture, farmers and ranchers have no choice but to rely on the safety net provided by the federal farm program to survive.”

The RMFU board of directors support lowering the federal budget deficit, but believe that cutting farm programs, which destroys our nation’s infrastructure and opportunities for rural youth, is not the way to accomplish this goal. “Pulling the rug out from under America’s family farmers and ranchers by greatly reducing the safety net, while giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans is wrong and will have a negative impact on the rural economy,” said RMFU Board Chair Jan Kochis, Matheson, Colo. “The president’s proposed cuts in agriculture, education and healthcare will have devastating impacts on rural America immediately and for years into the future. They are unacceptable.”

One measure within the proposed agriculture budget could be favorable. “We are pleased with the proposal that a cap of $250,000 be placed on an individual’s subsidy eligibility,” said Stencel. “RMFU supports this concept as a way of directing benefits to family producers, while reducing federal spending. But, if the proposal reduces the support on the units of production, bushels or pounds, while capping benefits, the proposal will do little to direct perceived farm program benefits to family farmers and ranchers.”

“The action by Congress last year and again this year, to cut farm bill programs, provides tremendous levels of uncertainty for producers. We are opening and rewriting the farm program year after year, rather than operating with a level of certainty and stability during the five-year period of the farm bill, which was adopted in 2002,” said Kochis.

RMFU also is alarmed by a provision in the proposed budget that would allow the Agency for International Development to buy 25 percent of food aid from foreign countries.

“How can we justify buying food from foreign countries when our producers are struggling to survive?” Stencel questioned. “This proposal is very offensive.”