Farm bill passes in Congress |

Farm bill passes in Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C.— After years of delay, the long-awaited farm bill passed in the U.S. Senate on Feb. 4 and contains some important provisions for rural Coloradans.

Colorado’s U.S. Sens. Democrats Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, issued statements welcoming the bill’s passage. It contains a one-year renewal of the payment in lieu of taxes program, or PILT, which provides funding to rural counties with federal lands. It also doubles the U.S. Forest Service’s annual funding for bark-beetle treatments, taking it to $200 million. It permanently authorizes the Stewardship Contracting Program, which has contracted Colorado businesses in bark beetle treatment and fuels reduction programs. The bill also permanently authorizes partnership programs between federal and state agencies in reducing wildfire risks. It also included an amendment allowing Colorado universities to cultivate hemp for academic and agricultural research. Most of these provisions were pushed by Colorado’s lawmakers.

“We traveled across Colorado talking with farmers and ranchers to make sure their voices were heard in this process, and it’s about time we got this done for their sake,” Bennet said in a press release.

By streamlining and consolidating redundant programs, the farm bill is also expected to cut the U.S. deficit by $23 billion.

The House passed the Farm Bill on Jan. 29. It now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) issued a statement against the bill, saying it still contains extraneous taxes and costly subsidies to agri-business, “which distort the market and force consumers to pay more for food.” Polis also complained that the bill did nothing to encourage the labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

“It’s time to end our Byzantium Soviet-style agriculture policy,” Polis said in a press release.

Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

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