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RMFU policy calls for food security & better farm prices

PUEBLO—Delegates to the 93rd annual Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) convention, here, Nov. 16-17, called on the U.S. Homeland Security office to enact measures to improve food security to protect all Americans against bioterrorism. The special order of business adopted unanimously by delegates recommends various measures to lessen threats, including a more localized approach to the production, processing and storage of food products.

“Nationwide, just a handful of multi-national corporations produce and distribute the bulk of America’s food, making us extremely vulnerable to bioterrorism and other types of food and water tampering,” said Richard Wolf, Ault, Colo., chair of the RMFU resolutions committee. “Widened use of our network of family farms and ranches to produce, process and store food increases market diversity, minimizing the threat of widespread food contamination.”

Also included in the security resolution was a call for U.S. energy self-sufficiency within the current decade through aggressive development of alternative energy sources, as well as a comprehensive plan to protect potable water. The resolution also suggested that rural healthcare systems be equipped to handle emergency evacuations from urban areas. Despite the essential role of independent farms and ranches to food security, prices in real dollars for many farm products are the lowest they have been since the 1930s. This resulted in a strong message by delegates for Washington, D.C., to strengthen the safety net for producers who work the land.

“Fully two-thirds of government assistance to producers since enactment of the 1996 farm bill was in addition to that legislated as part of the 1996 farm bill, yet the House farm bill proposal would continue the very disastrous provisions of the last farm bill,” said Leland Swenson, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) who addressed the RMFU convention Friday morning. “The Senate version is somewhat better in that it modestly raises producer loan rates. You producers need to continue talking to your members of Congress so that the final bill gives family farmers the best possible support.”

The subject of the farm bill was explored in detail during a workshop at the convention just one day after the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the bill.

Chris Schepis of NFU’s government relations office in Washington, D.C., praised the Senate bill for its modest increase in loan rates and for restoring mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meats and produce but said the safety net is still lacking and there is a need to address the lack of competition in agricultural markets. Referring to the reconciliation process between the very different House and Senate versions of the farm bill, Schepis urged Farmers Union members to make known their preferences. “There is still much work for you to do,” he said.