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In Face of Worst Drought in Decades, Udall and Bennet Call on House to Pass Farm Bill

Senators Send Letter to House Leadership Urging Passage of Vital Resources

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2012

In the face of the worst drought in 50 years, Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are urging the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives to take up and pass the 2012 Farm Bill which includes vital resources to assist farmers and ranchers suffering from the drought.

In the letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the senators write, “Congress can be of immediate help by moving the Farm Bill forward. The tools farmers and ranchers use to manage risk — from invasive pests, to volatile commodity prices and adverse weather events like this summer’s drought — are authorized under the Farm Bill. Reauthorizing this legislation is the single best thing lawmakers can do to provide relief and certainty to our farmers and ranchers suffering from drought.”

The letter highlights a number of permanent disaster programs important to Colorado producers that expired at the end of the 2011. These programs would be restored under this bill and would provide support for farmers and ranchers who may require assistance in the future.

The Senate passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill last month with broad bipartisan support. The House Agriculture committee passed its own version of the bill, which is now awaiting action in the House of Representatives.

Udall and Bennet wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last month asking for federal assistance for Colorado farmers and ranchers, who are facing severe drought conditions that are threatening crops, livestock and rural livelihoods. The senators voiced concerns they have heard from Colorado agricultural producers who are facing severe financial and operational losses.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared all of Colorado’s counties as disaster areas due to losses caused by drought, excessive heat, and high winds. Producers in counties designated as disaster areas are eligible for Farm Service Agency emergency loans. Additionally, Secretary Vilsack announced yesterday additional flexibility and assistance through the USDA’s conservation programs to help livestock producers in the midst of the widespread drought conditions across the country.

The full text of the letter is below:

July 26, 2012

The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-204, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi:

As you know, farmers and ranchers in Colorado and nationwide are suffering from the worst drought in 50 years. Many producers are facing crop and livestock losses that threaten to devastate our rural economies and slow a fragile economic recovery. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, over half of the country is experiencing “moderate drought” or worse, while nearly all of Colorado is designated as an “extreme drought” area. To help mitigate the far-reaching effects of drought on our agricultural community, we urge you to advance the Farm Bill through the House.

While growing crops and raising livestock have never been easy jobs, the current drought represents an unprecedented challenge for many farmers and ranchers. The hard planning and financial decisions agricultural producers are now making to fight dry conditions will have a dramatic effect on the viability of their operations going forward. At the same time, the energy, transportation, retail, and other sectors of the American economy heavily dependent on agricultural production are watching anxiously as farmers and ranchers work to meet obligations and make the most out of this difficult growing season.

Congress can be of immediate help by moving the Farm Bill forward. The tools farmers and ranchers use to manage risk—from invasive pests, to volatile commodity prices and adverse weather events like this summer’s drought—are authorized under the Farm Bill. Reauthorizing this legislation is the single best thing lawmakers can do to provide relief and certainty to our farmers and ranchers suffering from drought. Without Congressional action, many important Farm Bill programs will expire on September 30, 2012.

In fact, some permanent disaster programs lapsed at the end of September 2011, leaving a coverage gap for losses incurred during this 2012 growing season. Among these lapsed programs, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program are particularly important for Colorado livestock producers facing drought-stricken pastureland and a tightened supply of feed. Passing the Farm Bill will put these programs into effect for Fiscal Year 2012 and ensure that ranchers can depend on these resources in the future.

On June 21, 2012, the Senate passed the overwhelmingly bipartisan Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act (S.3240). This legislation consolidates risk management and conservation programs administered by the Department of Agriculture, saving taxpayers $23 billion dollars. It also contains significant accountability measures to help ensure that the federal government is directing assistance to the farmers and ranchers who need it most. Two weeks ago, the House passed its own Farm Bill out of committee, reflecting many of the ideas that first emerged from bipartisan consensus in the Senate.

While there remain some important differences between the Senate-passed Farm Bill and the legislation recently passed by the House Agriculture Committee, we are confident that these differences can be resolved through conference. In the face of the worst drought in decades, Congress should provide farmers and ranchers with a predictable set of tools with which to manage this season’s challenges and prepare for the future.

We stand ready to work with you to provide relief and certainty for our agricultural producers and rural communities by quickly passing a Farm Bill worthy of one of Colorado’s and America’s most important economic engines.

By: Mike Saccone
 
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