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Published March 15, 2008, 12:00 AM

Schafer updates Farmers Union members on farm bill

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer both voiced optimism to more than 600 Farmers Union members that Congress and the Bush Administration soon will reach agreement on a new farm bill.

By: Press Staff, The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON - House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer both voiced optimism to more than 600 Farmers Union members that Congress and the Bush Administration soon will reach agreement on a new farm bill.

Peterson spoke by phone to farmers and ranchers attending the annual convention of National Farmers Union.

He said he was optimistic a farm bill funding agreement will be reached in the coming week and a bill signed into law by mid-April.

Peterson, speaking from Washington, gave the keynote address during opening night of NFU’s 106th annual convention in Las Vegas.

“We’re moving slowly ahead, at least not backwards and we’re close to getting a final resolution,” Peterson said. “Country-of-origin labeling, interstate shipment of meat, permanent disaster, all will get done... There is a lot of good policy here, a lot of real reform.”

Schafer said he is optimistic a new bill, with the support of the House and Senate, will be signed into law this year.

He vowed to do everything he can to make this happen.

“Overall, we are much closer than we were a few days ago,” Schafer said.

NFU President Tom Buis gave his state of Farmers Union report to members and guests attending the convention.

A recurring theme of Buis’ address was the hard work of Farmers Union members – past and present – who have been committed to the organization.

“Since our founding in 1902, NFU has been a leader at addressing the challenges we face everyday in rural America. We will never give up and we will not back down when it comes to improving the quality of life for rural citizens,” Buis said.

Buis highlighted the organization’s legislative accomplishments during the past year, including farm bill provisions that will allow for implementation of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and creation of a permanent disaster assistance program; and the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard.

He also pointed out the 3.8 million acres now enrolled in the Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program.

Other convention highlights included the following:

- AARP President Erik Olsen who told members about Divided We Fail – a national effort designed to engage the American people, businesses, interest groups, non-profit organizations and elected officials in finding bi-partisan solutions to ensure affordable, quality health care and long-term financial security for everyone.

- A panel discussion on risk management focused on staying competitive in today’s agriculture economy. The fastest growing sector of the food industry, the local food movement was also discussed.

Panelists included family farmers and a Las Vegas chef who provided a truckload of useful information for those thinking about making the consumer-to-producer connection.

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