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Bennet Says He Plans to Hold Record Number of Discussions to Ensure Farm Bill Reflects Colorado Priorities

Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced that his agriculture policy and regional staff will host additional Farm Bill listening sessions in Southwest Colorado, the San Luis Valley, and the Denver area in the coming weeks.

In the past six months, Bennet and his staff say they have heard from more than 300 Coloradans across 17 sessions held throughout the state from the Front Range, the Eastern Plains, the West Slope, and Northwestern Colorado.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet answers questions Thursday, March 19, 2018 during a town hall meeting at the Salida SteamPlant Event Center. Bennet fielded questions on a wide range of topics, including his voting record, health care, gun violence, public lands, agriculture and others (File photo by Joe Stone).

“Across Colorado, we’ve heard from farmers and ranchers about the toll severe drought, increased prices, and our broken immigration system has taken on their operations,” said Bennet. “This year, my team and I will hold more listening sessions than ever before to ensure next year’s Farm Bill reflects the priorities of Colorado.”

Plans are underway to organize at least a dozen more discussions, and Bennet’s staff has pointed out that he is on track to hold more Farm Bill listening sessions than he did in the lead-up to the 2018 and 2014 Farm Bills.  The goal, they say, is to gather more input than ever as the Senate works on the upcoming Farm Bill, to ensure Colorado’s priorities are reflected.

During the listening sessions thus far, Bennet’s staff say he has heard from farmers, producers, and community and business leaders about the threat that drought poses to their livelihoods and operations. Colorado producers have told them about the effects that increased costs have had on their balance sheets – including the cost of inputs like seed, fertilizer, and diesel – and the need for stronger USDA safety net programs.

Nutrition leaders have stressed the importance of federal nutrition programs to support Colorado families during and after the pandemic. Listening session attendees also emphasized the need for legislation to reform our immigration system for producers and farmworkers. Bennet is continuing to negotiate in the Senate with Idaho U.S. Senator Mike Crapo.

Bennet kicked off his 2022 listening sessions with roundtables in Pueblo and Fort Collins in April and May. In April, he also hosted a forestry and fire listening session with Meryl Harrell, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore in Boulder.

Since then, his staff have held listening sessions across the Eastern Plains, the Western Slope, and in Northwestern Colorado. In August, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Bennet to hear from producers and nutrition leaders in Palisade. As Ark Valley Voice has pointed out — Central Colorado and southwestern mountain regions appear to be missing from that list of locations, leading to a hope that our coverage region will be added to the listening session schedule.

Bennet has served on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee since first coming to the U.S. Senate in 2009. During that time, he has worked to pass two bipartisan Farm Bills — in 2014 and 2018 — and secured a number of priorities for Colorado, such as new tools to improve drought resilience and soil health, and expanded funding for collaborative forest restoration and wildlife habitat improvements. Bennet says that ensuring key Colorado priorities in the bill are fully and effectively implemented is his priority.

As the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources and Chair of the Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure, Bennet has pushed to make major investments in our forests and agricultural economy. He secured $4 billion to address drought in the West and in the Colorado River Basin in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which was signed into law last month.

The IRA will also invest more than $20 billion in working lands conservation measures and $5 billion to restore the health of our forests to prevent wildfires, modeled after his Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act. At Bennet’s urging, the bipartisan infrastructure law also made a major investment in our forests – for a combined historic $10 billion investment in our forests.