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RMFU members headed to D.C. seeking assistance

DENVER—Ten Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) members from Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Farmers Union annual legislative fly-in, slated for Sept. 8-11. A push for allocation of emergency disaster assistance will be the top item on the agenda when the RMFU and other members visit their members of Congress and representatives from the Bush administration.

Several pieces of disaster assistance legislation have been offered in Congress. RMFU favors the provision offered by Montana Sens. Conrad Burns and Max Baucus, which would allocate emergency dollars to help producers mitigate the impact of the drought, pest infestations and other disasters that threaten to destroy family farmers and ranchers. Other bills being proposed provide disaster assistance by offsets from the federal farm bill passed earlier this year. “We do not favor taking monies from the farm bill to pay for this drought any more than survivors of hurricanes would expect their compensation to be subtracted from education or any other federal program already allotted them,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “Farm bill programs are of little consequence to those with no crop to sell.”

RMFU members participating in the fly-in include: Lawrence and Julie Gallegos, Antonito, Colo.; Michael Gardner, Pine Bluffs, Wyo.; Monty Niebur, Akron, Colo.; Norbert (Bud) Pekarek, Burlington, Colo.; Dale Petty, Clovis, N.M.; Roger Reyher, McClave, Colo.; John Stencel, Aurora, Colo.; Marilyn Wentz, Strasburg, Colo.; and Burt Whiteheckman, McClave, Colo.

“Our states are at the epicenter of the drought, which has impacted fully one-half of our nation,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “The drought is unprecedented, prompting authorities to name a new category of severity for this area.”

Stencel is referring to the addition of “exceptional,” which was added to the National Weather Service rating, going by what was previously the worst rating of “extreme.”

Anecdotal accounts and data are showing conditions in most of Colorado, as well as in many parts of Wyoming and New Mexico to be the worst ever. In Colorado, dry land wheat production is about 40 percent of normal, irrigated farmers have had a fraction of their normal water and sale barns are extending sale times to accommodate the massive sell-off of livestock. In Wyoming, authorities say conditions will not return to normal with anything short of 140 percent of normal snowfall during the coming winter.

In addition to the need for drought assistance, fly-in participants also will talk with their members of Congress about restoring competition in agricultural markets and implementation of the 2002 farm bill.