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ND Farmers Union hears fiery farm bill speech

(Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven reportedly stressed to the Farmers Union convention attendees the importance of segregating genetically modified crops and of achieving market acceptance before planting them.

Mikkel Pates, Grand Forks Herald, 12/14/02: Under the theme "Ag: The Cornerstone," about 470 delegates and about 700 people gathered for the 76th North Dakota Farmers Union convention in Bismarck, which started Thursday and ends today.

Among Friday's speakers was John Ikerd, a retired University of Missouri-Columbia agricultural economist, responsible for implementing the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program in Missouri.

Ikerd described how the newly passed farm program was a failure.

"The new Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 - the new farm bill - does nothing to secure the future food security of this country, and it does nothing to enhance the investment in rural areas," Ikerd declared. "The farm bill just passed does nothing more than continue to subsidize wealthy landowners and the corporations that are basically destroying opportunities for family farms and destroying the future of rural communities. What's driving agriculture is people who are politically and economically powerful have a firm grip on the economic trough."

Ikerd was followed by Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., who first praised Ikerd's fiery speech, but immediately went on to characterize the farm bill as a win. He said the bill "at its core, had just what we've been calling for," and the product for years of effort - "the re-establishing of price support protection for family farms."

As for federal investment in rural America, Pomeroy said he was leaving the convention to attend a news conference with the USDA's Rural Development Administration, to help announce a record $76.7 million in investments in the state over the past fiscal year. Later, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said family farmers must be preserved as a "seedbed of values." He described the farm bill as "not perfect," but better than what it replaced. He said a primary effort in January will be to get a farm disaster program passed that will include $380 million for North Dakota farmers.


• State Farmers Union policy already calls for a moratorium on genetically-modified wheat commercialization, but not on research, but officials expected refinements in the policy discussions late Friday and today.