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Rocky Mountain Farmers Union addresses drought

DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) is taking a series of steps to help family farmers and ranchers better withstand the drought throughout its three state area (Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico).

“Snowpacks in the mountains are at 10-30 percent of normal, leaving irrigation reservoirs very low, and dry land farmers have had only about an inch of moisture since January,” said RMFU president John Stencel. “Most of the farmers and ranchers I speak with say it is the worst they have ever seen, with many referencing the dust bowl days of the 1930s.”

Producers in most areas of Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming have been struggling for at least a year with the conditions brought on by the lack of moisture. With the advent of restrictions on lawn watering over the past several weeks, consumers along the Front Range also are becoming aware of the extreme shortfall. “Farmers Union will be working with other interested agriculture organizations and agencies in our three-state area to see how we can best coordinate efforts to help producers mitigate their losses,” Stencel said.

RMFU has joined Montana Farmers Union and other producer groups in calling for approval by the federal government of a 2001 emergency assistance package as well as for a similar or expanded 2002 emergency assistance package.

Farmers Union was represented by a Texas member who testified yesterday on the drought and needed assistance at a U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee hearing.

RMFU will work within the nationwide Farmers Union network as well as with other state groups to connect producers with hay and pasture to producers in need of hay and pasture for their livestock. RMFU applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture announcement Wednesday that some area counties have received federal approval to graze land currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CPR).

“We will continue to push for quick approval of grazing on CRP land in additional counties in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico,” Stencel said. “Grazing CRP land requires no cash expenditures and is a good local feed source in this severe drought situation.”

In addition, RMFU will be assisting producers who have trouble collecting on their crop and/or risk management insurance policies. “We have had some initial reports that insurance providers are attempting to use technicalities to avoid paying for crop damage. If producers bought insurance and followed its rules, they should be able to fully collect on it,” Stencel said.