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Guest Opinions

A Look at the 2007 Farm Bill

Written by John Barrasso

By U.S. Senator John Barrasso

    Agriculture is one of the most trusted, respected and revered ways of life in America. It is the farmers and ranchers who feed and sustain this country.
    Agriculture in Wyoming is a billion dollar industry and livestock producers are at the heart of our state’s prosperity. The importance of agriculture to our state was particularly evident when I attended this month’s Ag Expo in Douglas.
    I am privileged to represent more than 9,000 farm and ranch operations in Wyoming. I fight every day to ensure that our farm and ranch businesses continue to thrive.
    The 2007 Farm Bill, which was approved by the Senate in December 2007, represents just one opportunity to promote smart growth through agriculture legislation. The responsibility to finalize these reforms now rest with a conference committee that will combine the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill.
    There is a great opportunity before this Congress to meet the evolving needs of agriculture. We need to set a standard that improves our industry for the future. I fought to make the 2007 Senate Farm Bill a victory for Wyoming agriculture. The bill promotes smart growth for our industry in many ways:
Conserving Wyoming’s Farm and Ranchland
    I support conservation programs. I believe that providing incentive to farmers and ranchers to make improvements to their operations for the benefit of the environment serves all of our interests.
    In Wyoming, we’ve seen smart growth spurred by conservation programs. Wyoming producers have implemented 2,881 Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts over the past five years.
    Conservation programs, provided for in the 2007 Senate Farm Bill, will continue the tangible, on-the-ground results we’ve seen in Wyoming.
Providing Market Opportunity
    It is a significant victory that the bill contains meaningful implementation guidelines for country-of-origin labeling. We raise exceptional beef and lamb in this country. Our producers deserve the opportunity to label their product ‘Born and Raised in the USA.’ Consumers demand it and have proved they will buy it.
    I am also pleased that this Farm Bill will end the prohibition on the shipment of Wyoming beef and lamb products to other states. Our state inspection program is more stringent than the federal program, and yet we have faced a limit on our product for years. I’m very pleased that this Farm Bill will change that and increase the opportunity for Wyoming business.
Managing Risk in Agriculture Markets
    In a revolutionary step forward, the 2007 Senate Farm Bill contains an agriculture disaster program that is available to all agriculture producers. The Agriculture Disaster Relief Trust Fund created in this bill can provide assistance to farmers and ranchers operating in a county that receives a disaster designation.
    This program is vitally important to Wyoming. Had this been in place for 2007, every county in the state would be eligible for drought disaster assistance.
Promoting Veterinary Research
    I was proud to sponsor an amendment authorizing the Minor Use Animal Drug Program on behalf of Wyoming’s 900 sheep producers. The amendment helps the American sheep industry be competitive in the world market. I am pleased that the bill’s sponsors included this amendment in the 2007 Senate Farm Bill.
    Animal disease research is of utmost importance to Wyoming. Our rugged landscape is a real challenge to ranchers trying to keep their livestock healthy. To meet this need, I cosponsored an amendment, along with my neighbors in Montana and Idaho to promote brucellosis and pasturella research.
Enacting Common Sense Energy Policy
    I am troubled by the ‘food versus fuel’ debate. When we use so much corn to make ethanol—there is less corn to feed our cattle. The price of corn is rising and ranchers are struggling to keep their businesses profitable.
    I strongly support policies that advance the development of alternative and renewable energy: solar, wind, geothermal, coal-to-liquids, biofuels—we need it all.
Fighting for the Future of Wyo Agriculture
    I am proud to represent Wyoming farmers and ranchers in the United States Senate. As Senator, I will continue fighting to protect and support our state’s farmers and ranchers by sponsoring commonsense legislation. I will fight to remove bureaucratic barriers, eliminate the death tax, promote fair competition, and spur economic growth.