U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet speaks to Hayden residents about the U.S. Farm Bill on Friday night at the Haven Community Center.

Photo by Matt Stensland

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet speaks to Hayden residents about the U.S. Farm Bill on Friday night at the Haven Community Center.

US Sen. Bennet listens to community concerns in Hayden

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— Hayden cattle and wheat producer David Funk’s reason for attending U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s town hall discussion Friday night was pretty straightforward.

As the Democratic senator begins work on the country’s next Farm Bill, Funk wants to be able to continue to compete in the agriculture business domestically and internationally.

“I don’t want to get beat up too bad,” he said.

That desire to stay competitive is possibly what steered many of the night’s discussions toward the country’s economy and overspending.

Bennet told the crowd of about 50 at the Haven Community Center that his colleagues in Washington, D.C., are saying things will have to get worse before they come together and come up with solutions.

“It’s ridiculous, but that’s what you hear,” Bennet said.

He said that the country is facing an unimaginable debt and that there is no working political theory as to how the country is going to dig itself out.

“I have every confidence that we are going to pull ourselves out of this,” Bennet said. “We’ve got to fix it together.”

Bennet’s visit in Hayden was one of several he has planned during a tour of Northwest Colorado and the Western Slope.

As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources, he is seeking input on the U.S. Farm Bill that funds major agricultural programs ranging from food stamps to technical assistance for farmers and ranchers. The latest version of the multiyear legislation was passed by Congress in 2008. It will be up for reauthorization next year when there likely will be fewer federal dollars available.

With a room filled with local ranchers, farmers and those active in the agricultural industry, the topics varied greatly, but all were subjects affecting people in rural areas of Northwest Colorado.

“I think what’s really neat for us is our access to a U.S. senator,” said Scott Ford, who studies local economic data. “If you were in a metro area, you wouldn’t have this access.”

Ford told Bennet how important it is to continue expanding the availability of high-speed Internet to the Yampa Valley.

There were discussions about the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of supplements, and Steamboat Springs rancher Jo Stanko voiced her opposition to Farm Bill regulations that would not allow potatoes to be served in school lunches.

“I really feel that we are taking some very dangerous steps when we take one menu item away,” Stanko said.

Hayden resident Tammie Delaney and South Routt Nursery owner Tracy Zuschlag expressed their concern about rules that make it difficult for communities to utilize locally produced food.

Many attended the event to become better educated about what their senator is doing.

“We’re trying to get more involved with what’s happening at the local and national level,” said Hayden resident John Lozinsky.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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