By MEGGIE I. FOSTER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With 2012 ending in the extension of the good old 2008 farm bill and many farmers still suffering from the effects of one of most severe droughts in American history, delegates of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recently looked forward into the new year with optimism and a renewed energy for grassroots-based farm policy initiatives.
During the delegate session at the recent AFBF annual meeting on Jan. 15, 362 voting delegates representing every crop and livestock sector in the 50 states and Puerto Rico 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 administrative 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 farmer 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 would also 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 posted by the consumption of raw milk.
On national fiscal policy, Farm Bureau 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 farm workers to adjust to legal status.
“Only comprehensive immigration reform through legislation can solve the agricultural worker problem,” said Stallman.
Additionally, 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 the 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.”
Also, 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.
The policies voted on and approved at the annual meeting will guide AFBF in its legislative and regulatory efforts throughout 2013.