Farm bill to bring Colorado $32 million

February 4, 2014 Updated: February 4, 2014 at 8:48 pm
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Barbara Payne and her husband Robert Payne pose for a portrait on their sorghum field on June 10, 2013 in Rush, Colorado. Photo by Junfu Han, The Gazette

DENVER - Congress on Tuesday approved a farm bill that cut food stamps, increased some farm subsidies and included payment in-lieu of taxes (PILT) funding that will bring about $32 million to Colorado.

PILT was left out of the budget agreement Congress struck this year, leaving Western lawmakers scrambling in Washington for a way to recoup millions the federal government pays to local counties for federally owned, and thus untaxed, land in each jurisdiction.

"I was proud to have led the fight to include funding for the PILT program in the 2014 farm bill and to end the fiscal uncertainty for rural communities across Colorado," said U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. "This victory is a down payment on our commitment to rural communities. Congress must step up and pass my bipartisan bill to permanently fund the PILT program."

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, $402 million was allocated to PILT in 2013. Colorado received $32 million. Mesa County received the most at $3.1 million. El Paso County received $184,547, and Teller County got $215,317.

The money is a one-time payment made to counties in June.

Udall introduced a separate bill that would have guaranteed PILT funding into the future, in part to safeguard against the controversial farm bill failing.

But the farm bill passed and is now headed to the president for his signature.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who serves on the Senate agriculture committee, said the five-year farm bill provides certainty to Colorado's farmers and ranchers.

"Although long overdue, today's vote means that our state's producers, from the Eastern Plains to the West Slope to the San Luis Valley, are one step closer to the certainty and predictability that comes with a full, five-year roadmap for food and farm policy," Bennet said in a written statement. "Among other things, this bill improves the health of our forests, reduces the risk of wildfires, provides a critical safety net for our state's producers in the event of extreme weather, and provides essential resources for our rural communities."

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