Area ag group keeps busy

Members lobby Washington for Fed Farm Bill

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— The Community Agriculture Alliance, Inc. looks to reap the benefits from a recent trip to Washington D.C., where members of the organization participated in recommendations to the reauthorization the Federal Farm Bill.

The Ag Alliance, which is a local organization recently formed to support agriculture in the Yampa Valley, was one of 15 similar groups invited to Washington D.C. by the Wallace Center of Agricultural and Environmental Policy to work on recommendations to the U.S. Congress.

The Federal Farm Bill offers incentives to agricultural producers and discussion on its reauthorization recently began in Congress, Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow said.

Founding Ag Alliance members Rich Tremaine and Medora Fralick, along with the executive director Ellen Stein and board advisor Mucklow accepted the invitation and arrived in Washington D.C. on Feb. 15 for two days.

While giving insight on rural development and preservation issues, the members forged relationships with one private and one public entity that could be potential sources of money, Stein said.

"We are now working on relationships with them," she said.

The first was the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, based in Battle Creek, Mich.

Representatives of the foundation expressed interest in the Ag Alliance and invited members to Pittsburgh to attend its conference on the global vision of food and society.

Members also rubbed elbows with officials in a grant program run by the United States Department of Agriculture that awards grants to agricultural companies interested in producing a value-added product, Stein said.

That would qualify the Yampa Valley Beef, Inc. for a grant, which is a company formed by a group of local ranchers and agricultural business owners who sell beef raised in the Yampa Valley at a premium price.

Stein said the Ag Alliance will work with Yampa Valley Beef to write a grant proposal, which is due on April 23.

The grant money would be used to do feasibility studies of expanding Yampa Valley Beef to larger markets in Colorado, Stein said.

Mucklow said along with forging the connections, that the trip to the nation's capital was an opportunity to meet other people working to support agriculture in their communities, similar to the Ag Alliances goal.

"We had some great conversations," Mucklow said.

Mucklow said he learned about cranberry growers in Cape Cod, Mass., struggling with similar land issues as ranchers in Colorado, and chefs and agriculture producers in North Carolina coming together to form a group to support locally grown food being used in restaurants.

"The most successful organizations there were connecting local business to agriculture," Mucklow said.

He explained this is one of the goals of the Ag Alliance and Yampa Valley Beef.

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