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New Bill Could Be Breath of ‘FRESH’ Air for NM Farmers, Ranchers

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October 24, 2007

Washington, D.C. – New Mexico's family farmers could benefit from a "FRESH" approach to farm policy. That's the word from a diverse set of groups supporting the new Farm, Ranch, Energy, Stewardship and Health Act, or "FRESH." Besides help for family farms, the bill includes billions for nutrition, conservation and renewable energy programs.

Jim Lyons with Oxfam America says a "fresh approach" is needed because the new Farm Bill is bloated with subsidies to big farms that don't need the help.

"Subsidies encourage overproduction, they create a glut in markets that lower prices and affect the livelihoods of family farmers, in America and around the world."

John Frydenlund from Citizens Against Government Waste agrees the bill is the best chance for reforming farm policy by phasing out direct payments, which he says benefit mostly large producers at the expense of family farms.

"When these direct payments were originally created back in the 1996 Farm Bill, they were meant to be transition payments that would decline over time, not turned into another entitlement program for the wealthiest farmers."

The FRESH Act suggests moving away from a system of automatic payments, to an insurance-based safety net available to all growers, and ranchers as well. Supporters of the current subsidy program say the payments keep consumer prices low. The Senate Agriculture Committee is set to vote on the new Farm Bill today.

Eric Mack/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NM