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RMFU gives mixed review of farm bill

DENVER—The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) is thankful for an agreement with many positive provisions that has been reached by U.S. House and Senate conferees on the farm bill but feels the agreement omits some important elements.

“We are pleased that an agreement has been reached and that it includes some of the key provisions supported by Farmers Union,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “Higher loan rates, country-of-origin labeling, and more aggressive renewable energy provisions are among the very positive elements in this agreement. However, the bill fails to provide disaster assistance for producers hit by natural disasters in 2001. It does not target benefits to family producers and places no ban on packers ownership of livestock for slaughter.” “Although it falls short of what is needed to make family farm and ranch agriculture profitable in today’s market structure, it is an improvement over current law,” Stencel said. “Farmers Union will work hard to get a supplemental measure to provide disaster assistance to those affected in 2001 and also push for a ban on packer ownership of livestock within 14 days of slaughter. Both are important to the farm economy!”

The tentative farm bill agreement includes numerous provisions supported by Farmers Union, such as:
• higher marketing loan rates for the first time since 1981;
• an improved nationwide safety net for dairy producers;
• mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meats, fruits, vegetables, fish and peanuts;
• requiring U.S.-labeled foods be from plants and animals born, raised and processed in America;
• LDP-type payments for grazed-out wheat;
• producer option to update yields under the counter-cyclical target price program;
• prohibition of farm benefits to the wealthiest landowners and Fortune 500 companies;
• increased conservation and rural development funding;
• a new Conservation Security Program for working lands; and
• a first-ever energy title.

Farmers Union supported provisions not included in the agreement are:
• a ban on meatpackers owning livestock;
• natural disaster assistance for crop and livestock losses suffered by producers in 2001;
• targeting of farm program benefits to family farmers; and
• normalizing agricultural trade with Cuba.

The six-year bill must be approved in both houses and signed by the president before it becomes law.