I’m a local Farm Bureau member, not because I farm, but because I live in a community that depends on agriculture and I appreciate the democratic process that the Farm Bureau organizations use to advocate for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. The process starts with local county organizations, which make issues known at the state level. State level issues are debated and refined, then discussed and taken action on at the national convention. American democracy in action.
A Clear and Present Danger — American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman kicked off the group’s annual meeting saying US farmers and ranchers are facing challenges by government regulators who want to downsize American agriculture. “Whether the topic is greenhouse gas regulations, absurd new rules on dust, futile endangered species mandates, permits for spray nozzles or expensive new rules for water, over-regulation haunts our industry.” Stallman said over-regulation is “a clear and present danger” and it is coming from one place. “With a $10 billion budget and more than 17,000 employees, the Environmental Protection Agency has ramped up its regulatory force at the very time that agriculture’s environmental footprint is shrinking. That makes about as much sense as a back pocket on a work shirt.” RRFN’s coverage from Atlanta and the AFBF Annual Meeting is sponsored, in part, by the North Dakota Farm Bureau.
[AFBF blog on Stallman’s speech w/video here.]
Grassroots Process — Bejou, Minnesota farmer Mike Gunderson says the delegate session is the culmination of the grassroots effort to shape Farm Bureau policy. “All the policies that have been passed at the different state Farm Bureaus, which originally came from the counties, are accumulated here and on Tuesday the voting delegates will be addressing those issues, setting new policy or reaffirming some old policies.”
Politically Difficult — According to American Farm Bureau Federation public policy director Mark Maslyn, the deficit will have a major impact on the 2012 Farm Bill. “The biggest funding buckets in the Farm Bill have to do with crop insurance and direct payments,” said Maslyn, “Crop insurance we saw cut last year. Direct payments will be very challenging, given the agricultural economy.” Maslyn told RRFN that many lawmakers don’t understand the need for direct payments. “We have good prices right now and the sentiment is, with the deficit that we’ve got, why do we need to be giving people money with no strings attached.” Maintaining direct payments will be politically difficult, said Maslyn.
Health Care Costs Must be Addressed — Budget cutting is foremost on the minds of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. American Farm Bureau Federation economist Bob Young says health care costs will have to be addressed eventually. “The 800 pound gorilla in the room that we all kind of want to ignore is going to be health care costs,” said Young, “We can have all kinds of conversations about what policies we want to adopt and how it ought to be provided, but, an awful lot of those conversations are not asking the question about my responsibility as a taxpayer for your health care costs, and that is a conversation that we really need to have.”
Buying Back Its Reputation — Moving into 2011, American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist Bob Young says Russia will have to rebuild its image in the global marketplace. “They’re going to have to buy a reputation back and one of the only ways you can buy back a reputation is with price and so I think they need to be very aggressive in some of those markets, if they decide to come back.”
It was awful nice of our Yankee members to share some fluffy white stuff with the Southerners in Atlanta. Kids in Georgia don’t get many snow days, I guess.