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RMFU urges passage of emergency drought assistance

DENVER—The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s (RMFU) Drought Task Force in its second meeting here, July 29-30, strongly urged members of Congress to pass direct emergency disaster assistance for producers suffering losses in 2001 and 2002. RMFU President John Stencel, on behalf of the task force, has requested meetings to discuss the drought and the need for assistance with Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico U.S. congressional delegations during the August recess.

In addition, the task force is warning producers who might be counting on counter-cyclical payments provided for in the 2002 farm bill that it is unlikely any payments will be made on wheat and corn.

“As a committee, we are concerned that a lot of producers will be counting on these payments, however, there will likely be no payments since lower yields are resulting in higher market prices for these commodities,” said Stencel. “The higher prices are great for the guys with a crop, but for those of us who have been prevented from planting a crop or whose crops dried up from the heat and lack of water, it is of no consequence.” RMFU is encouraging passage of S. 2800, a bill introduced last Friday by Sens. Max Baucus and Conrad Burns of Montana that would provide direct financial assistance to producers hit by natural disasters, including those suffering from drought. The task force also will be inviting all state farm and commodity groups as well as representatives from local banks and other rural businesses to participate in the meetings with members of Congress in August.

“I would encourage every producer and rural citizen to contact their members of Congress and encourage them to support quick passage of this bill. One way to do this is to visit with your representatives during the August recess when they will be in their home states,” Stencel said. “Farmers Union is arranging regional meetings in the countryside with these members of Congress and will communicate the details of these meetings at a later time.”

Other task force recommendations include establishment of a regional advisory committee on federal crop insurance issues. This recommendation and other administrative problems with the federal crop insurance program were expressed to Erica Tergeson, aide to Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-Colo., who attended the task force meeting.

The task force also is pushing for passage of S. 2528, a bill sponsored by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., that would establish a National Drought Council under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It would improve national drought preparedness, mitigation and response efforts to future droughts.

Members of the RMFU Drought Task Force include: John Stencel, RMFU president; Bud Pekarek, Kit Carson County, Colo.; Monty Niebur, Washington County, Colo.; Dale Petty, Curry County, N.M.; Scott Zimmerman, Laramie County, Wyo.; Ernie New, Alamosa County, Colo.; Larry Burnett, Torrance County, N.M.; Carl Jensen, Platte County, Wyo.; Tom Lauridson, Adams, County, Colo.; and Marilyn Wentz, RMFU communications director.