Voting delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 94th annual meeting expressed support for a bipartisan, reform-minded farm bill, crafted around a broad, flexible, crop-insurance-based program, including risk-management protection for peanuts, rice, forage and specialty crops.
“After ending a long year of policy uncertainty culminating with an extension of the old bill, we will push hard, in cooperation with our congressional and administration allies, for a five-year farm bill that provides our farmers certainty and extends much-needed risk management tools across more acres and more crops,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas.
Delegates said AFBF would not only support a farm bill with a strong safety net and risk management programs to protect farmers from catastrophes, but they also would work for programs that provide emergency assistance for livestock and tree producers not covered by federal crop insurance programs.
Delegates reaffirmed policy supporting changes to the dairy safety net, consistent with the margin insurance programs included in versions of the farm bill approved by the House and Senate Ag Committees.
On another dairy issue, delegates approved a new policy that states only pasteurized milk and milk products should be sold for human consumption. Delegates approved the measure in light of the potential risks to public health and food safety posed by consumption of raw milk.
On national fiscal policy, delegates reaffirmed the importance of a sound budget process with a priority on spending restraints rather than tax increases.
Delegates also voted to support streamlining or replacement of the H-2A seasonal and temporary agricultural worker program in addition to allowing experienced, undocumented agricultural workers to adjust to legal status.
“Only comprehensive immigration reform through legislation can solve the agricultural worker problem,” Stallman said.
Recognizing the important role played by agricultural biotechnology and rapid developments in the industry, delegates expressed continued support of a private-sector, industry accord to govern how biotech traits are managed when patents expire. They also reiterated support for the continued implementation of an industry solution that promotes investment and marketability of new technologies.
On regulatory policy, delegates said that “all federal agencies shall be held to the strictest interpretation of law when setting regulations” and “no federal agency shall be allowed to legislate through their regulatory power.” They also said that “no regulatory action should be taken against landowners based on satellite or aerial imagery.”
Delegates expressed concern about the advantage that Internet retail sellers have over local merchants when it comes to charging sales tax. They noted that in addition to lost revenues that affect rural communities’ budgets, the resources those communities have for economic development activities also are reduced.
Delegates voted to support greater flexibility within the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Specifically, they voted to oppose mandatory limits on calories and serving sizes for lean meats, protein-rich foods and dairy products, believing that local school districts are best able to determine how to meet the nutritional needs of their students.
At the AFBF Annual Meeting, 362 voting delegates, representing every crop and livestock sector in the 50 states and Puerto Rico, deliberated on policies affecting farmers’ and ranchers’ productivity and profitability. The policies approved at the annual meeting will guide the nation’s largest general farm organization in its legislative and regulatory efforts throughout 2013.
Tracy Taylor Grondine