By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) — An $867 billion bill that impacts everything from how food is grown to how food stamps are doled out is headed for a showdown in Congress and it will have a big impact in Colorado.
Agriculture is one of the state’s top industries, generating 40 billion dollars a year and employing 170,000 people.
Dave Eckert is a fourth generation Colorado farmer and says the crop insurance provision in the Federal Farm Bill is critical. His farm in Lasalle one of those hit by the recent hail storms.
“We’re obviously going to have a yield affect. We don’t know what that is,” Eckert said.
Democrats want to means test crop insurance.
Eckert says it would price many farmers out of business, “For us to lose that crop insurance affects people down the line… fertilizer, aerial application, equipment dealers.”
Consumers, too, would be impacted, says Colorado’s U.S. Senator Cory Gardner. He voted for the Senate bill that leaves crop insurance alone.
“Mainstreet businesses are impacted by the price of corn, they’re effected by the hailstorm that crop insurance may or may not cover depending on the policy and the certainty that a farm bill provides,” Sen. Gardner said.
Debate over the farm bill comes as commodity prices on crops like corn, soybeans and wheat tumble and as trade tensions between the U.S. and China — the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans — increase in response to President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum.
Colorado’s U.S. Senator Michael Bennet sits on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and says farmers need certainty now more than ever.
“This is a tough time with commodity prices the way they are and facing serious questions about retaliation on trade. What our farmers and ranchers need is a five year farm bill,” Sen. Bennet said.
Eckert says the bill doesn’t just impact farmers.
“The consumer has vested interest in the production of food and fiber in this country and if you don’t take care of it you find yourself beholden to another country for the food you eat. I don’t think that’s a position any of us want to be in,” said Eckert.
Among the provisions in the Senate Farm Bill is an amendment by Sen. Bennet and Sen. Gardner that legalizes hemp.
The house passed its own version of the farm bill last week. It imposes a controversial work requirement for some food stamp recipients.
The two bills are now headed to a conference committee.