Senator Bennet Discusses Farm Bill, Drought and Education

Senator Bennet

Senator Bennet

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet fielded questions focusing on the bipartisan immigration and farm bills, as well as how our national school system is not performing up to expectations.  The senator was concluding a three day visit to eastern Colorado constituents this past Wednesday, August 28.  Bennet and former Colorado Governor Roy Romer made an early morning visit to the new school in Holly before the senator answered questions from a gathering of citizens and representatives at Colorado Equipment in Lamar.  Romer, a former Holly resident, introduced Senator Bennet to the group, noting that as well as sharing a political background, both he and Bennet were also former school superintendents. 

Former Colorado Governor Roy Romer

Former Colorado Governor Roy Romer

“The farm bill doesn’t do everything I want it to do,” Bennet said in his opening remarks.  He served on the Farm Bill Conference Committee which is negotiating the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Bill.  It now goes to the House for action this September.   Bennet said some of the Bill’s positive notes are that it strengthens crop insurance, conservation titles, cuts the deficit by $40 billion and makes it easier to apply to Colorado’s agriculture community on the local level.  He added, “I’ve spent the last eight months in a room with four Republicans and four Democrats.  We’re trying to fix the immigration laws and across this state we’re facing huge challenges to make this work.”  He said his focus on that bill was primarily agriculture, including a proposal to move the Ag aspect of the bill out of the Department of Labor and put in into the USDA where it belongs. 

Jillane Hixson, Prowers County landowner asked if some outdated CRP land use required policies, such as disk stripping land during a drought could be altered and if the state’s conservation easement debacle for southeast Colorado land owners could be addressed outside at a federal level.  Bennet said he will determine who is accountable and responsible for some of the regulations that are being applied at the local level.  He added that with regard to habitat measures, issues of the soil should outweigh habitat regulations. 

Peter Dawson, Baca County Commissioner, asked about the Senate’s feelings on separating the food assistance funds from the farm bill.  Senator Bennet responded, “We’re at the point in our political system where if one person or group doesn’t like a single aspect of a bill, they’re more inclined to try to kill the bill rather that work towards a compromise.”  Bennet said he just doesn’t think it’s a practical way of running the legislative process.  He stated that the lack of getting anything done is affecting the agriculture and business sections of the nation.   

Bennet discussed the educational system in the nation, adding that it needs to change to a more common sense approach of developing teachers who are not bound to teaching students to simply pass a test each year to monitor their academic progress.  “It’s ridiculous to test fourth graders one year and compare how much progress they’ve made against the next year of fourth graders who come through the system,” he told the audience.   

The senator said he would check into another aspect of the farm bill regarding how quickly disaster relief payments are made to farmers.  Hixson noted that it can take as much as two years for any form of reimbursement, which could be only the option to apply for another loan, when your compensation is needed at least in the same growing season when possible.  She added that if the forms are not exactly correct, you can be mired in red tape attempting to correct the paperwork while you’re struggling to prepare for your next crop. 

Senator Bennet’s visits included Drought tours with Scherler Farms and Sand Creek, Incorporated, plus the Stulp and Hefley Farms in Lamar.  Other towns included Holly, Cheraw, Haxtun, Limon and La Junta.

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEducationEnvironmentFeaturedHot TopicsLamarPoliticsProwers County


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