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RMFU president testifies at hearing

HENDERSON, COLO.–Testifying here Monday before the U.S. Senate Agriculture hearing on the 2007 farm bill, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) President Kent Peppler outlined his organization’s top priorities as: a solid safety net to help producers survive when commodity prices are low; permanent disaster assistance; funding for conservation programs; and, investment in renewable energy development.

“Our members have sent a strong message that these are their top priorities,” said Pepper, who leads the family farm and ranch organization of 25,000 members in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. “It will be vital for Congress to approve the budget dollars for these programs which are a lifeline for family agriculture.”

The RMFU president said the current conservation programs are good programs, but have been under funded. He also urged Congress to enact a permanent disaster program that will not require disaster-by-disaster congressional action.

Peppler, a Mead, Colo., farmer, served on the board of the Colorado Farm Service Agency (FSA), from 1995 to 2001, and also was acting state executive director. He currently is a member of the U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) Trade Advisory Committee on Sugar and Sweeteners. “The 2007 farm bill is the number one issue in agriculture,” Peppler said. “The next farm bill will control the destiny of thousands of family farmers all over the world.”

RMFU also reaffirmed its support of public research to benefit producers and consumers, including research on production alternatives to energy and chemical intensive methods of production. He also urged funding for the greenhouse complex at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Center Great Plains Research Center in Akron, Colo.

Regarding USDA Rural Development, Peppler said, “We urge the next farm bill focus on programs that nurture the new energy economy, encourage the fresh, local food movement, and encourage entrepreneurial development and small business growth in rural communities.”

Peppler told the committee, “We urge that any attempts to dismantle the farm program delivery system at the local level be rejected by Congress. Farmers and ranchers rely heavily on the folks at the local county (FSA) offices and they need more funding and staff, not less.”

Peppler also stated RMFU’s support of a comprehensive competition title that addresses current anti-trust practices and ensures anti-trust laws will be enforced.