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RMFU commends Senate on first step in providing Ag Disaster Relief

DENVER, Colo. – Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) commends the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for taking the first step in providing relief to farmers and ranchers who have suffered from crop and range land losses as a result of drought and other natural disaster and excessively higher input costs that made 2005 a devastating year for agriculture.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union members this past week traveled to Washington, D.C., to visit with members of Congress and urge swift action in providing disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers. National Farmers Union members participated in a press conference conducted by members of the U.S. Senate emphasizing that bipartisan support existed for including disaster legislation in pending appropriation legislation.

“This is hopeful news for America’s agricultural community,” said John Stencel, RMFU president. “The past year devastating disasters have struck farmers and ranchers around the country. Farmers and ranchers have been facing disasters from a multitude of directions including drought, wild fires, hurricane winds and flooding, and higher energy and input costs that have made it extremely hard to survive.”

On Tues., April 4, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the bipartisan “Emergency Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2006” (S.2438) as an amendment to the $96 billion Iraq/Afghanistan/hurricane relief emergency supplemental appropriations bill expected to be approved by the Senate later this month. The amendment was offered by Sen. Dorgan, D-N.D. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., along with 28 other Senators, are original cosponsors of S.2438, legislation introduced by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

“We are excited to see that the Senate has taken this very positive step following our visit to Washington, D.C.,” said Ken Anderson, Center, Colo. “It was clear in visiting with farmers and ranchers from throughout the United States that natural disasters were having a tremendous economic impact on producers and their communities. We now hope that our visits with Congressional members in both the House and Senate will result in final approval of the assistance.”

The legislation will provide emergency relief assistance to agricultural producers for losses incurred during the 2005 production year. Specifically, the legislation provides assistance for crop production loss, including assistance for sugar beet losses or yield reductions. The bill includes a Livestock Compensation program for producers in designated disaster counties to help cover their added costs of procuring livestock feed.

Upon hearing of the action by the Senate Appropriations committee, Sen. Salazar commended the bipartisan action as an important step forward. “The conditions facing our family farms and ranches are dire. Between September 2004 and September 2005, farm fuel prices soared by nearly 80 percent. Estimates showed that this year’s winter wheat crop could be the fifth below-average crop in six years – with potential losses to producers of over $60 million.”

The Senate Appropriations emergency supplemental appropriations bill now goes before the full Senate for consideration, with a vote expected later this month.

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