CAWG Working for You – Farm Policy/Farm Bill Statement

Congressman Cory Gardner (R, Colo. – 4th) held forums in eastern Colorado this week to hear feedback on the 2012 Farm Bill and other farm policy. CAWG President Randy Traxler of Otis gave the following statement at the meeting in Yuma on February 20:

Congressman Gardner, thank you for holding this roundtable and for the opportunity for me to present a statement on behalf of the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers (CAWG). Wheat is an important crop to Colorado agricultural producers and the state’s diversified economy. Almost all of Colorado’s wheat production is in the Fourth Congressional District. Here are the 10 year (2001-10) averages for Colorado all-wheat: 2,227,500 acres planted; 2,095,600 acres harvested; 32.1 bushel per acre yield; 68,938,000 bushels of production; and $313,826,300 total value of production. However, there has been great variability in production and volatility of prices over the past ten years. Production has ranged from a low of 38,100,000 bushels in 2002 due to a severe drought to a high of 108,234,000 bushels. Season average prices have ranged from a low of $2.72 per bushel in the 2001-02 marketing year to an all-time record high of $6.62 per bushel in the 2008-09 marketing year. This clearly illustrates the need to preserve the current safety net for Colorado wheat farmers. CAWG has adopted the following:

The CAWG’s highest priority for federal investment in agriculture programs is the portion of crop insurance premiums subsidized by the federal government and therefore, CAWG strongly opposes any reduction to the baseline available to the federal crop insurance program; CAWG believes a phase-down of the direct payment program over as few as three years would allow farmers, their landlords and lenders and rural economies to adjust; CAWG supports a safety net program based on revenue to help fill the gap between that 65 or 70 percent of revenue risk that is protected through the federal crop insurance program and buy-up coverage options that are prioritized through the following trigger mechanisms: first priority – on-farm trigger and by-commodity revenue; second priority – on-farm trigger and whole farm revenue; third priority – county trigger and by-commodity revenue; and fourth priority – county trigger and whole-farm revenue; and CAWG also believes that maintaining a functioning farm safety net should be prioritized over private-land conservation in general that can be achieved by consolidating and streamlining these programs.

The U.S. agricultural safety net helps protect a viable and prosperous rural economy. Totaling only ¼ of 1 percent of the federal budget this relatively small but wise investment in rural America is worth protecting for the benefit of farmers and consumers. The Farm Bill must protect the federal crop insurance program to allow farmers to customize the risk protection they need. The Farm Bill must preserve the current safety net provided by the commodity title of the 2008 Farm Bill that provides a stable and abundant food supply for all Americans. Congress must not compromise one of the strongest sectors of the American economy, the agriculture sector, by singling it out for draconian cuts. The Farm Bill must continue investing in USDA foreign market development programs. Fifty percent (50%) of U.S. wheat production is exported and 80 percent of Colorado wheat production is exported. A study of wheat promotion activities shows producer dollars, combined with Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD), return $115 to the economy for every $1 spent. The Farm Bill must preserve the long-term investment of federal dollars into the public wheat research system managed by the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The utilization of advanced breeding technologies by both public and private sector scientists relies on work supported by USDA. It should also allow the partnership with Colorado and U.S. wheat growers, who are doing their part with checkoff dollars to support public research programs.

Finally, we request that you lead a bi-partisan effort to initiate a joint letter from the Colorado Congressional delegation requesting President Obama to include funding in the executive budget through USDA/CSREES to Colorado State University (CSU) for genetic enhancement of Russian wheat aphid resistance, stress tolerance, and quality enhancement of wheat and an increase in base funding for the USDA-ARS Central Great Plains Research Station at Akron, CO for an alternative plant breeding program focusing on biofuel and oilseed and sorghum crops.

Thanks again for this opportunity to present this statement and for your support of Colorado wheat farmers.

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