Udall, Bennet Join Senate to Approve Critical Support for Colorado Farmers and Ranchers

Agriculture Appropriations Bill Increases Loan-Aid to Farmers, Funds Critical Research at CSU and Great Plains Research Station in Akron

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet joined the Senate Tuesday evening to pass a bill that increases access to credit for farmers and ranchers. The Senators were instrumental in ensuring the bill included support for Colorado's farmers, who are struggling as a result of low commodity prices and the credit crunch. The bill also funds important agricultural and public health research programs in Colorado, which the Senators fought to include.

The Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture, Rural Development, and FDA Appropriations bill, which provides funding for food programs, rural development, and agricultural research. The bill passed with significant bipartisan support, by a vote of 80-17. A final version must now be worked out with the House of Representatives.

A critical provision in the bill increases funding for direct farm operating loans starting in Fiscal Year 2010, which begins on Oct. 1. The provision will be a big help to Colorado farmers and ranchers.

In June, Senators Udall and Bennet wrote a letter to appropriators urging them to increase funding for the program by $124,905,000 - the amount recommended by President Obama in his proposed budget. The additional funding means that approximately $7.8 million in direct farm operating loans would be available for Colorado farmers in FY2010 - an increase of about $1.4 million over last year. Overall, the increase would help an estimated 12,000 more family farms in 49 states.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct farm operating loan program was created to help qualified farmers. Demand for the program has increased dramatically in the last year as a result of the credit freeze and other problems related to the economic crisis. Earlier this year, Congress also heeded another request by the Senators to increase loan funding in the Emergency Supplemental package, which raised the amounts to help meet demand for this Fiscal Year.

"At the beginning of this year, the demand for FSA loans had already skyrocketed by 200 percent over last year, and FSA hasn't been able to keep up," Senator Udall said. "The increased support in this bill will be a huge help for farmers who already qualify for loans but can't get them because of a lack of available credit. I'm very glad our colleagues heeded our call and provided this critical support for farmers and ranchers that will help keep Colorado's farming economy strong."

"Plummeting commodity prices and a crippling shortage of credit have put Colorado's farmers and ranchers in a tough spot," Senator Bennet said. "With demand for FSA loans on the rise, this increase in support will help qualified producers get the credit they need to stay in business and on their farms. With thousands of jobs and hundreds of agricultural operations on the line, we need to do what we can to make sure Colorado's farming and ranching economy stays strong."

The Senators also fought to include funding for agricultural and public health research programs in Colorado. They are:

  • Colorado State University's Program for Economically Important Infectious Animal Diseases (PEIIAD) Research - $650,000 to boost work focused entirely on animal diseases that threaten the U.S. food supply and/or cause economic losses for animal agriculture on a local, national and international scale. Specifically, the funds will be used to research animal diseases such as avian influenza, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, Chronic Wasting Disease, Vesicular stomatitis, brucellosis, scrapie, Foot and Mouth Disease, and West Nile Virus.
  • CSU's Russian Wheat Aphid Resistance, Stress Tolerance, and Quality Enhancement of Wheat Project - $250,000 to research wheat-based cropping systems that are critical to the economic stability of the United States and Colorado by developing a wheat variety that is resistant to the Russian Wheat Aphid, which has caused direct losses of more than $11 million annually to the Colorado and central Great Plains economies. CSU uses new technologies developed through this program to accelerate the identification of useful genes and to incorporate these genes into new varieties, which will enhance the yield and safety of our domestic wheat crop. The funds are used by CSU scientists, Colorado farmers, and farmers in other central Great Plains states.
  • USDA/ARS Central Great Plains Research Station in Akron - $775,000, representing a nearly $60,000 increase in annual funding. The Central Great Plains Research Station, located in Akron, is focused on developing sustainable soil and crop management practices for the Central Great Plains Region and identifying technologies that maximize the use of the region's soil and water resources with minimal negative environmental impact.

"This funding will help Colorado researchers continue to do cutting-edge research, which is vital to our economy and public health," Senator Udall said. "I was proud to fight to include these projects in this bill. The result of the research will lead to better understanding of sustainable farming practices, and new methods for controlling agricultural diseases and pests."

"Making sure Colorado's agricultural research centers have the resources they need is critical to our food safety and security," Senator Bennet said. "These centers provide important knowledge and innovation to help Colorado farmers, who play an essential role as food providers and as a key part of the state's economy. With this funding, our farmers will continue to get the best information as they weather these difficult times."