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NFU aim: Renewable energy, fair trade, extending farm bill
By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Ohio Correspondent

DENVER, Colo. — Extension of the Farm Bill, renewable fuels and fair trade as opposed to free trade were just a few of the topics considered at the National Farmers Union (NFU) Convention.

Fifteen Ohio Farmers Union (OFU) members attended the convention including five delegates: Mary Grassbaugh, Knox County, Roger Wise, Sandusky County, Tony Giesige, Henry County, Louis Smith, Sandusky County, and OFU President Joe Logan, Trumbull County. OFU Executive Director Roger Crossgrove, Ottawa, was also in attendance.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte and four other members of the U.S. House of Represen-tatives Committee on Agriculture hosted a roundtable discussion at the event. They agreed that the 2007 Farm Bill should not be written based upon World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.

Logan said that the farmers union was “delighted to hear that.” During the convention delegates adopted special orders of business extending the current farm bill and adoption of disaster assistance legislation for farmers and ranchers; and in opposition to the proposed 2007 federal budget which places 25 percent of the nation’s budget cuts on USDA programs, Logan said.

Renewable fuels came up for discussion. “We passed into policy a bill to push for renewable fuels,” said Grassbaugh.

Added Wise: “In our policy we called for complete energy self sufficiency by the year 2015. There was some discussion about that because at the federal level they’re talking about 25 percent energy independence by the year 2025.

“We said let’s go for the whole nine-yards by the year 2015,” he said. “We have the ability to do it, what we need is the mindset as a nation to do it.”

Wise also noted that a special order of business maintained support for the Milk Income Loss Contract which is due to expire.

The group pushed for free trade as opposed to fair trade. “Fair trade is the way to go so that everyone has equal play,” said Grassbaugh.

Smith expanded on that, “With fair trade we can get our price out of the marketplace. Free trade is regulated by giant corporations and the regulations of the WTO, and there is still no level playing field amongst all the nations in the world. We don’t have access to the other nations. The issue is, we produce commodities and sell them for the cost of producing them or less.”

Smith said that during the convention he had talked to rice and cotton farmers from around the country and they all expressed the same concerns. Giesige agreed, saying high fertilizer and fuel costs and low crop prices were a problem.

Crossgrove noted that an ongoing concern for the farmers union was getting mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) implemented. COOL was mandated in the 2002 Farm Bill but was never implemented. NFU continues to push for that.

NFU members heard from a variety of speakers including former Senators Tom Daschle and John Edwards; Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar. The conference theme was Fuels from the Farm - Our Nation’s Future.

As always at the farmers union conventions, every day began with a sing-a-long.

Finally, Crossgrove said the weekend was an ideal time to meet friends he only saw once a year.

“It’s like going to the doctor and getting a rejuvenation shot,” he said.

This farm news was published in the March 15, 2006 issue of Farm World.

3/15/2006