Voting delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th annual meeting approved resolutions that will provide the organization with authority from its grassroots members to push Congress toward the goal line on unfinished issues like the farm bill and ag labor.
“Securing victories on those issues is critical to our competitiveness as individual farmers and ranchers, and to our nation’s success as a food producer,” said Bob Stallman, who was re-elected to his eighth two-year term as the organization’s president. “Farm Bureau made progress on our priorities this past year, more so than most other organizations, and this year, our delegates have provided us direction to work with Congress to complete this agenda.”
On the farm labor front, delegates reaffirmed their strong support for meaningful ag labor reforms that ensure farmers and ranchers have access to workers when they are needed. Delegates also voted to support flexibility that would allow the employment of workers by more than one farmer.
“Farmers and ranchers need a reliable supply of labor,” Stallman said. “That is a simple truth. It’s about availability and flexibility — neither of which have been hallmarks of the system our farmers, ranchers and growers have operated under for many years. We must have a workable ag labor program.”
With congressional farm bill action nearing completion, delegates reaffirmed Farm Bureau’s policy, overwhelmingly determining that now is not the time to make changes.
“Congress is still haggling over dairy policy, but for the most part, they are very close to completing a five-year farm bill,” Stallman said. “It has been a long process, but substantial reforms have been made. Crop insurance has been strengthened so that farmers can play a role in determining the level of their safety net, and how much they are willing to invest for that coverage.”
Specifically on dairy-related issues, delegates reaffirmed policy supporting changes to the dairy safety net, including margin insurance programs.
On another livestock-related issue, delegates maintained their support for country of origin labeling and reiterated that it needs to be compliant with World Trade Organization rules. They also voted to support efforts to lengthen the term of grazing permits from 10 years to 20 years.
On other issues, delegates adopted new policy that supports the use of unmanned aircraft systems for commercial agricultural, forestry and other natural resource purposes. They also supported the requirement for drone users to gain the consent of the landowners, if operating below navigable airspace However, delegates opposed federal agencies’ use of drones for regulatory enforcement, litigation or natural resource inventory surveys.
Delegates approved new policy supporting the protection of proprietary data collected from farmers and maintaining that such data should remain their property. Delegates also voted to support efforts to educate farmers regarding the benefits and risks of collaborative data collection systems. They also approved policy stating that farmers should be compensated if companies market their propriety information, and that farmers should have the right to sell their proprietary data to another producer, such as in the case of a land sale. Delegates voted to oppose farmers’ data being held in a clearinghouse or database by any entity subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Delegates also reaffirmed their support for the renewable fuels standard and approved a policy supporting renewable fuels tax incentives for the production of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol and installation of blender pumps.
At the AFBF Annual Meeting, 357 voting delegates, representing every crop and livestock sector in the United States, 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 throughout 2014.