Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement after the House passed some drought assistance measures instead of a long-term Farm Bill that would provide much-needed certainty along with a more complete drought assistance package for Colorado farmers and ranchers. The House-passed bill is paid for with deep cuts to important conservation programs for Colorado.
“The best thing we can do for Colorado’s agriculture community is to pass a full five-year Farm Bill, which the Senate did last month with overwhelming bipartisan support,” Bennet said. “The House instead chose to punt on rural America’s top priority and add to Washington’s stack of unfinished business. Our producers suffering from the worst drought in decades are depending on these important tools. Yet instead of passing a comprehensive bill, the House is cutting vital conservation tools to pay for drought assistance. That amounts to cutting programs that help prevent future droughts to pay for programs that address the current drought. It’s not a real solution.”
The five-year Farm Bill extension includes programs to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities cope with drought, such as livestock disaster programs, that are paid for as part of a bipartisan agreement that includes $23 million in deficit reduction along with reforms to eliminate direct payments and to strengthen crop insurance programs. The Farm Bill also includes a strong conservation title that Coloradans worked closely with Bennet, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources, to preserve.
The emergency drought assistance bill the House contains some, but not all, of the same provisions to assist communities struck with drought that are already included in the Farm Bill.However, the drought bill is funded by cuts to conservation programs, undermining many of the very initiatives that help conserve Colorado’s scarce water resources in the first place.