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Senate farm bill provisions welcomed

DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU), an organization representing independent farmers and ranchers in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, is pleased with many of the provisions in the farm bill passed last week by the U.S. Senate.

“Farmers Union is pleased with the improvements in the Senate farm bill over its House counterpart,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “We are urging the conference committee to adopt the Senate provisions that are favored by independent producers when the House and Senate farm bills are merged.”

RMFU describes the House farm bill, adopted last fall, as “freedom to farm plus.” It would continue the system of direct payments to farmers regardless of commodity market prices. The House version increases the maximum payment levels, further skewing the disparity in payments between mega-sized and family operations. The Senate version of the farm bill corrects many of the problems RMFU sees in the House bill, including:

• Commodity payment levels are brought down considerably with caps at $225,000 per operation and removal of the triple entity rule, which previously allowed big operations to get around payment caps. This provision will target limited resources to those—family farms and ranches—that need them the most and reduce government expenditures.

• Meat packing companies will not be allowed to own animals close to slaughter time. This will make the livestock market more competitive, helping to level the playing field for independent livestock producers.

• Meat and produce at the retail level must have country-of-origin labeling. This is a win for producers and consumers alike but is vehemently opposed by food companies.

• Payment amounts for environmental clean up of large-scale livestock operations (EQIP program) will be capped. This will prevent taxpayers from subsidizing clean up at industrial hog and other operations.

• More stringent laws on agricultural contract disclosures would be implemented. This helps prevent producers from being taken advantage of in production contracts with commodity processors.

RMFU notes that of the three states it represents, only Sen. Jeff Bingaman, R-N.M., voted in favor of the bill. The bill passed 58-40.