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U.S. House urged to pass disaster assistance

DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) is calling on members of the U.S. House from Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico to pass emergency disaster assistance funding before Congress recesses for November election campaigning.

“Colorado has lost at least one-half of its cattle herd and suffered greatly reduced crop production, hurling farm and ranch families and the communities they support into economic desperation,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “While awareness of the drought has only become widespread in the last year, many rural communities are experiencing their second and even third years of drought.”

National Farmers Union (NFU) held a news conference earlier today to call on House leadership to swiftly pass H.R. 5383, a comprehensive emergency disaster package sponsored by Reps. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., and Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D. The Senate has already passed an identical bill. “Every day that goes by without passage of disaster assistance plunges producers, bankers and other rural businesses further into despair,” said Stencel. “Those concerned with the fiscal ramifications of this bill need to consider the financial damage that will occur locally without it.”

Even if the bill is passed as proposed, it will cover less than one-sixth of the estimated losses incurred in rural America due to natural disasters.

NFU President Dave Frederickson, in addressing the Bush administration’s insistence that emergency funding be offset by farm bill cuts, explained that higher crop prices and lower yields will result in government payments from farm bill programs being reduced by over $5 billion in 2002. “Requiring additional offsets from the farm bill would be like taxing the victims of a hurricane, flood or earthquake to pay for the clean-up,” Frederickson said.