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Attendees called for more disaster aid; group supports 2002 farm bill extension

Agriculture.com Staff 09/11/2006 @ 3:01pm

Leaders of the National Farmers Union late last week released findings from the 13 listening sessions the organization held throughout the nation in recent months.

The forums were part of a nationwide effort to gather opinions and concerns from farmers, ranchers and rural residents about the impact of federal polices on their communities, including but not limited to the current farm bill.

The findings fall into eight different categories of concern:

  • Profitability from the Marketplace
  • Emergency Disaster Assistance
  • Extension of the 2002 Farm Bill
  • Fuels from the Farm and Energy
  • Conservation
  • International Trade
  • Competition in Agriculture Markets
  • Cuts to Agriculture Programs

"At every listening session, participants expressed frustration at the lack of natural disaster assistance," NFU President Tom Buis said. "Story after story made it clear that much of rural America is suffering greatly at the hands of Mother Nature."

More than 50% of all U.S. counties have been declared disaster areas by USDA in 2006. A year ago, 80% of all U.S. counties were declared weather-related disaster areas by either secretarial or presidential declarations.

National Farmers Union officials say the 2002 farm bill was not designed to provide protection or mitigate weather-related losses and risk management programs are insufficient in addressing production and quality losses.

Farmers and ranchers at the listening sessions called for Congress to vote on disaster assistance before the November elections. They also sought a permanent disaster program as part of the next farm bill, so that assistance isn't contingent on ad hoc committees and subject to yearly budget battles.

The 2002 farm bill is set to expire in September 2007, but producers at the listening sessions, by and large, think that now is not the time to renegotiate the legislation. While several producers had specific items they would like to change in the farm bill, there was no wholesale call for a new farm bill.

"It was generally agreed that the 2002 farm bill is a positive piece of legislation," Buis said. "With budget pressures that would likely mean a reduction in farm bill allocations, and the outcome of a new global trade treaty that could call for changes to the current farm bill in question, now is not the time to re-write the farm bill."

Attendees said that an extension the current farm bill for two years would best ensure continuation of our economic safety net and other vital farm bill programs.

Editor's note: National Farmers Union is this week hosting its Washington Fly-In on Disaster Assistance, Farm Bill and Fuels from the Farm. Look for coverage of the event later this week in the News section of Agriculture Online from Agriculture Online Farm Business Editor Dan Looker.

Leaders of the National Farmers Union late last week released findings from the 13 listening sessions the organization held throughout the nation in recent months.

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