Ohio farmers voice concerns in D.C.

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COLUMBUS – Farmers and ranchers from Ohio and across the nation met in Washington last week to urge their congressional members to oppose the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
They also urged members to reject President Bush’s proposed agricultural budget cuts and to stop the administration’s rush to reopen the border to Canadian cattle and beef.
The grassroots legislative fly-in, hosted by National Farmers Union, provided an opportunity for producers to visit one-on-one with lawmakers about issues that affect their farm operation.
Ohio visitors. On Capitol Hill discussing the 2006 budget and trade agreements were Ohio Farmers Union members Duane Grassbaugh of Knox County, Louis Smith of Sandusky County, and Chester and Barbara Stoll of Wayne County.
Also attending were Ohio Farmers Union Governmental Relations Director Greg Hargett and Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan.
“Ohio Farmers Union members are deeply concerned about the direction our government is taking regarding international trade agreements and the choices lawmakers are making to reconcile the federal budget deficit,” Logan said.
“Our members are taking time from their normal workdays on the farm to travel to Washington to meet directly with their representatives and make their concerns known.”
CAFTA. Members met with members of Congress to express their opposition to CAFTA.
National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson said CAFTA resembles failed trade policies of the past that further encourage a “race to the bottom” for agricultural producer prices.
He said the agreement also fails to address major issues that distort fair trade such as labor, environmental and currency issues.
Budget cuts. The fly-in participants also urged Congress to oppose the agricultural budget cuts that Bush proposes for the fiscal year 2006 budget.
While the Senate Budget Committee has significantly pulled back from the administration’s proposed agricultural spending cuts – which the Congressional Budget Office now estimates would equal $18 billion – the House Budget Committee is reportedly more in line with the administration’s proposal.
Border issues. Finally, with recent passage of a Senate joint resolution to stop the USDA from prematurely reopening the border to Canadian cattle and beef, the Farmers Union members urge House leadership to advance a vote on a similar resolution.
Frederickson said Farmers Union will not support imports from any nation with documented cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) until U.S. international beef export markets are wholly re-established, mandatory country-of-origin labeling is fully implemented, and the country can verify their cattle and beef are BSE-free and that it has complied with the ruminant feed ban.

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