Denver >> Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) President Kent Peppler sent a letter to USDA Secretary Ed Schafer urging swift action on the request by Governor Ritter to assist Colorado producers being impacted by growing drought conditions.
Peppler followed up with a letter to Colorado Governor Bill Ritter petitioning for a broader response to the drought conditions in Eastern Colorado through the release of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage in additional counties. “We support the release of CRP grazing land to feed endangered livestock in southeastern Colorado,” Peppler said. “But we need to help animals throughout eastern Colorado, where conditions have become just as serious.”
In the letter to USDA, RMFU expressed strong support for Governor Ritter’s request that the USDA Farm Service Agency assess the impact of local drought conditions throughout Colorado agriculture and prepare damage assessment reports for crop and pasture losses. Wheat farmers are at risk as well as livestock growers, with projected yields at barely fifty percent of last year’s production. RMFU also supports immediate action on Ritter’s request for emergency access to land set aside by conservation programs to allow haying and grazing for livestock producers.
Farmers and ranchers in all of eastern Colorado are facing financial disaster from drought conditions. Ranchers will be forced to liquidate livestock herds because cattle can’t be fed on drought-depleted pasture. Farmers with reduced wheat yields and increased input costs will also face financial pressures. “Congress passed the 2008 farm bill to protect our domestic food supply against natural disasters,” Peppler said. “The economies of our rural communities and our state depend on agriculture, and consumers depend on our farmers and ranchers for a safe and reliable supply of food. Working together, through application of programs already in place, we can make sure farmers and ranchers survive these disasters and continue to provide for our country’s food needs.”
Peppler praised the cooperative teamwork of the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Colorado Division of Wildlife. “They are working together to ensure that haying and grazing will be done consistent with sound wildlife management practices,” Peppler said. He pledged that RMFU and its producer-members will work closely and cooperatively with USDA and all Colorado government agencies to be sure environmental practices are met.
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union represents 23,000 farm, ranch and rural families in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. RMFU works closely with consumer groups, conservation groups, and local food coalitions to promote and support food safety and independence, and to make farming a sustainable family occupation.