Dr. Dale McCall, President of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and a farmer in Yuma County, Colorado, met with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado to discuss trade and the Food and Farm Bill discussions now under way in Washington, D.C. Senator Bennet of Colorado has been instrumental in inserting provisions in the Farm Bill that will benefit farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The roundtable event was held last Friday at Sakata Farms in Brighton. The event gathered select ag leaders from across the state. Among the Farmers Union members invited were Dale McCall, RMFU Executive Director Ben Rainbolt, Robert Sakata of Sakata Farms, Kate Greenburg representing the National Young Farmers Coalition, and Dave Carter of the National Bison Association. Dr. McCall’s message follows.
“Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is appreciative of the Senate’s bipartisan work on this bill and we are pleased by its passage. At a time of great financial stress, family farmers and ranchers are in need of some economic certainty. The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill includes encouraging provisions that strengthen the farm safety net, promote farm sustainability, and ensure access to fair and diverse markets, all of which would provide essential security.
“The Senate worked to improve farm sustainability, as natural resource concerns such as water quality, aquifer recharge, carbon sequestration and soil health are critical to embrace for the viability of family farms, rural communities and future generations. The Senate farm bill maintains overall funding for conservation programs that improve the long-term sustainability of family farms and ranches. The legislation includes many reforms to improve access to working lands conservation programs and enhance their environmental benefits. The bill also maintains mandatory funding for programs that promote the development of the bio-economy in rural areas.
“Net farm income is less than half of what it was in 2013, leaving farmers to rely on price supports to sustain their operations. While the Senate farm bill does not include much-needed increases to PLC reference prices, the bill makes important investments to support dairy farmers. The bill also modernizes FSA loan limits, while maintaining broad access to operating and ownership loans.
“The bill increases funding to promote the development of local, regional, and value-added agricultural markets. It also maintains funding for the Organic Certification Cost-Share program and increases funding for organic research. Access to new markets provides farmers and ranchers opportunities to diversify their operations, improve their profitability, and meet growing consumer demands.
“We especially want to commend Senator Bennet for the following amendments he brought forward that made it into the final version of the Senate Farm Bill:
• Soil Health: emphasizes soil health across the conservation title and establishes an EQIP pilot program to improve soil health, ensuring the pilot program will occur in at least one drought prone region.
• Healthy Habitat and Rangelands: improves access to conservation planning and rewards grazing practices that promote drought resilience, wildfire management, and wildlife habitat.
• Drought Resilience: eliminates duplicative planning requirements and provides greater flexibility for off-farm water infrastructure projects that improve drought resilience.
• Conservation for Small-Scale Farmers: allows the USDA to create a pilot program to improve the delivery of conservation funding to small-scale producers.
Supporting Rural Economies
• Hemp Agriculture: legalizes hemp as an agriculture commodity, providing certainty and economic opportunity for growers, including the ability to access crop insurance and federal funding.
• Rural Broadband: provides loans, loan guarantees, and grants to improve broadband service in high-need rural areas.
• Farmer and Rancher Stress: reauthorizes the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network to assist states and nonprofits that establish helplines, suicide prevention training, and support groups.
Improving Energy Options
• Energy Storage: makes energy storage technologies eligible for USDA Rural Energy for American Program funding and financing.
• Clean Energy: promotes biogas and carbon utilization technologies in rural communities.
“While the Senate and House versions of the 2018 Farm Bill differ greatly, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is hopeful the conferees can come together, find common ground, and bring forward a bill that can be signed into law before the current Farm Bill expires on September 30 and bring some much-needed certainty to farmers and ranchers across the country.”