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RMFU reacts to USDA farm bill proposal

DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) says some farm policies unveiled by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Mike Johanns Wednesday morning are welcome, while others are troubling. The suggestions made were the Bush adminstration’s proposal for the 2007 farm bill, which will be debated by Congress this year.

“I commend Sec. Johanns for taking the time to hold farm bill forums across the nation to gather input from those impacted by the federal farm bill,” said RMFU President Kent Peppler, Mead, Colo. “We further commend USDA for putting their proposals on the table early in the game so that there is an opportunity to analyze and discuss the proposals.”

RMFU is pleased that the Bush administration’s proposal recognizes:

•the difficulties facing young producers the need to increase conservation spending the need to develop renewable energy infrastructure by proposing funding for research, development and production

•the need to improve nutrition programs and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by proposing funding to put these products directly into local nutrition programs, such as school lunch programs “RMFU’s biggest concern is USDA’s philosophy and approach to farm support programs,” Peppler said. “We strongly believe that the purpose of a safety net is to support farmers when commodity prices are low or production fails due to natural disasters. The administration’s proposal, which smacks of the failed freedom to farm program of the 1990s, pays producers a set amount, which is not needed in good years, yet is insufficient in bad years. The proposal lacks any vision to assist producers affected by drought or other natural disasters.”

“Another problem with the Bush administration’s approach to farm policy is that it is being driven by trade commitments already made in the current World Trade Organization negotiations on agriculture,” Peppler said. “We would like to see establishment of sound domestic farm policy as a higher priority, rather than disarm the American farmer in the heat of negotiations.”

RMFU also is very concerned with the proposals’ mandatory reduction in domestic sugar production to accommodate increases in sugar imports.

“The U.S. sugar program is a no-cost support program,” Peppler said. “It provides producers an income without use of taxpayer dollars. This stability has encouraged, over the past decade, producer investments in sugar cooperative processing facilities. This proposal could devastate producers and put at risk their investments in processing facilities.”

Other concerns RMFU has with USDA’s proposals include:

Inadequate funding of the Conservation Security Program
Reduction in support program for dairy producers

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is a general farm organization representing 23,000 family farmers and ranchers in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. It has actively worked for better water policies at the state level and improved crop protection programs at the federal level.