Farm Regs and Dollars Discussed with Senator Bennet in Lamar


L-R: Jillane HIxson, Lisa Nolder, Peter Dawson-Baca Commissioner, Gene Millbrand, Prowers Commissioner

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is wrapping up the week prior to Labor Day with a three-day tour of southern Colorado to conduct a Farm Bill listening session and get input from farmers and ranchers.  Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee told the gathering of some two dozen persons in Lamar on Thursday, he would speak a little, but listen a lot, to their general concerns, not limited to just  agriculture.  Bennet said information gleaned from the town hall sessions would help direct his goals in Congress.

Burl Scherler who sells agricultural chemicals from the Sheridan Lake area, criticized the amount of federal EPA regulations farmers are striving with, stating, “Where does this all come from?”  He was referring to the possibility of farmers having to obtain commercial drivers licenses in order to operate farm machinery on their property, and additional regulations pertaining to dust control and milk production.  Bennet agreed that a common sense approach is what’s needed, stating that when a rule is made, Congress needs to evaluate the overall dollar impact it’s going to have on both sides of the equation.  Scherler, who also works in the banking industry was critical of the amount of forms, as many as 29 pages of paperwork needed to get a home or business loan.  “You make just one mistake on a page, and you could be subject to a $5,000 fine.  That’s one of the reasons loans are so hard to get these days,” he added. 

On another farming note, Lamar resident Jillane Hixson asked Bennet why it takes so long for farmers and rancher to be compensated after an area has been designated with a disaster declaration.  “We have to wait as long as three years before we see any compensation.  That forces us to take out loans just to make ends meet,” she said. 

Laura Negley from RC & D in southeast Colorado, had praise for the overall agriculture picture in the country and Colorado.  She said in light of the recession, agriculture has been the economic driver to keep the U.S. and the rest of the world fed.  “We shouldn’t kill the cash cow” with so many hindrances from Washington, DC. 

Regarding the budget and debt ceiling, Bennet said the bi-partisan ‘Gang of 6’ worked hard to seek middle ground in the negotiations, but no comprise was available when, in the scope of billions of dollars, we couldn’t find agreement with a separation of just millions.   He said the country just can’t make any economic progress without getting to common ground.

Prowers County Commissioner Gene Millbrand asked if Bennet thought the American Recovery Act was successful in job stimulation in the country.  Bennet replied that reports show that, “median income was down, but average income was improved.”  He added that, “We need a tax and regulation policy to drive job growth, and not spend our time searching for special interest loopholes.”  Millbrand was also critical of federal entitlement policies draining local governments.  The commissioner said, “$475,000 was spent in the county on food stamps, alone.”  He stated that while the county is seeing less financial assistance during the economic downturn, it still has to deal with increased costs from state and federal mandated programs. 

Earlier in the day, Bennet toured Eads and following Lamar, spoke with officials at the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility in Las Animas.  His town hall tour concludes in Rocky Ford on Friday and Alamosa on Saturday.

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEmploymentEnergyFeaturedPolitics


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