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Senators’ voting record on farm bill graded

DENVER—According to the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU), which represents independent farmers and ranchers in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, support on farm bill provisions from its senators had some bright spots but is disappointing overall.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, R-N.M., was the only senator in the three-state area to vote in favor of the final Senate farm bill. RMFU favors the Senate farm bill, but is strongly opposed to the House version, which acerbates the problems associated with the 1996 farm bill.

“Family farmers and ranchers applaud Senator Bingaman for his courage and commitment to family producers, evident in his vote in favor of the Senate farm bill,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “On the other hand, we are extremely disappointed with the voting record of Senator Allard. It is clear he is not interested in the concerns of independent producers in Colorado.” RMFU favors the Senate farm bill because it caps farm program payments, prohibits packer ownership of livestock within 14 days of slaughter, requires meat and produce to be labeled with its country of origin, increases commodity loan rates, and provides disaster assistance for producers hurt by weather in 2001.

“We cannot have a federal farm policy where one-fifth of the producers get four-fifths of the program payments. Provisions in the Senate bill, such as capping payments and raising loan rates, will target a greater percentage of the support to family-sized operations,” Stencel said. “We highly encourage the House-Senate conference committee to adopt these important policies into the final bill.”

RMFU researched the voting records on various aspects of the farm bill that are important to its membership. “Supporting” is a vote in favor of an RMFU position, and “Opposing” is a vote against the RMFU position. A summary of the votes of Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., Jeff Bingaman, R- N.M., Ben Campbell, R-Colo., Pete Domenici, R-N.M., Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., and Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., is as follows:

Vote on the final Senate farm bill:
Supporting: Bingaman
Opposing: Allard, Campbell, Enzi, Thomas
Not Voting: Domenici

Amendments:

Prohibition of packer ownership of animals within 14 days of slaughter:
Supporting: Bingaman, Campbell, Domenici, Enzi, Thomas
Opposing: Allard

2001 disaster assistance allocation:
Supporting: Allard, Bingaman, Campbell, Enzi, Thomas
Opposing: none
Not Voting: Domenici

Capping program payment levels of any single operation to $275,000:
Supporting: Allard, Campbell, Enzi, Thomas
Opposing: Bingaman
Not Voting: Domenici

Replacing the Senate farm bill with the House version:
Supporting: Bingaman
Opposing: Allard, Campbell, Domenici, Enzi, Thomas

Increased leverage for producers in contract agreements:
Supporting: Bingaman, Campbell, Enzi, Thomas
Opposing: Allard
Not Voting: Domenici

Country-of-origin food labeling (voted on only by Senate Agriculture Committee members):
Supporting: Thomas
Opposing: Allard

Reid Amendment (to enact a water conservation program & remove producers water rights, which RMFU opposed):
Supporting: Allard, Campbell, Domenici, Enzi, Thomas
Opposing: Bingaman

Farm Bill Grades:
Sen. Allard: D
Voted properly on Reid amendment and to cap subsidy payments. However, nay votes on packer ownership, contracts, country-of-origin labeling, and the final farm bill demonstrate little support for independent producers.

Sen. Bingaman: A-
Voted poorly on the Reid amendment and caps, but other than that, he voted for important provisions in the farm bill and gets extra credit for being the only RMFU-area senator to vote for the final bill.

Sen. Campbell: B-
Voted properly on Reid amendment and to cap subsidy payments as well as to limit packer ownership of livestock. Voted against the Senate version of the farm bill.

Sen. Domenici: C+
Voted properly on Reid amendment but stayed on the sideline during crucial amendments such as packer ownership and contract negotiations. Failed to vote on final farm bill.

Sen. Enzi: B
Supported RMFU on Reid amendment, packer ownership, payment limitations, and producer contracts, but showed he would have been happy with the House version of the farm bill and didn’t support the final Senate bill.

Sen Thomas B+
Supported country-of-origin food labeling. Thomas voted in favor of all but one of the amendments supported by RMFU, however, he did not support the final Senate farm bill.