Many farmers speak out with one voice

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dear Editor:

Once again, farmer and rancher voting delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting determined the policies they believe will most benefit America's farm and ranch families.

They are unified in their support for the concepts of the current farm bill. That law expires in September, and Congress will work in the intervening months to draft a new farm bill. The Farm Bureau delegates say a new farm bill incorporating many of the same principles and programs as the current one is best for agriculture.

The delegates also recognize the new farm bill must reflect changes since 2002 when the current farm bill became law. For example, rulings by the World Trade Organization could push Congress to provide a non-trade distorting compensation program for growers of fruits and vegetables. Those growers do not receive payments under the current farm bill. The Farm Bureau delegates said they support consideration of such a program.

Another important issue for farmers is the ability to have timely access to legal temporary farm workers, and the delegates reaffirmed their support for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill -- one addressing agriculture's labor needs and improving the current temporary agricultural guest worker program.

Animal agriculture concerns were the subject of lively debate. The delegates voted overwhelmingly in favor of a voluntary, national animal identification program. Livestock producers are concerned information they submit about their animals and livestock operations be kept confidential, meaning not accessible by activist groups, companies that could profit from the information or any others who could take advantage. They also want to ensure they won't be stuck with the entire cost of tagging their livestock and participating in animal identification. The Farm Bureau delegates supported the consideration of legislation to address these producer concerns.

A number of other issues generated discussion and votes by the delegates, including: support of voluntary country-of-origin labeling; a requirement that purchasers of ammonium nitrate show identification; and opposition to regulation of dust on farms under the Clean Air Act, to name a few.

Whether the farmer and rancher voting delegates were from Missouri or Michigan, Washington or West Virginia, South Carolina or South Dakota, they agreed Farm Bureau must speak with one voice to advance policies that benefit agriculture as a whole.

Farm Bureau's grassroots policy-making process is unique. It begins with discussions in living rooms and county Farm Bureau offices, works its way up to a vote at the state level, and culminates in votes at the state and national Farm Bureau annual meetings. All along the way, the many different voices of Farm Bureau members are heard. The challenge is to meld those voices into one, and the delegates did so once again.

The approved AFBF policies will guide the organization's efforts to represent farmers and ranchers as legislation is considered by Congress during 2007. Farm Bureau has a greater probability of success thanks to the unified voice of farmers and ranchers nationwide in determining the policy of the nation's largest farm organization.


Lynne Finnerty

Editor of the American Farm Bureau publication