fb - voice of agriculture
February 2000

Farm Bureau Primed to Improve Federal Ag Program

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

This past year, I've covered a lot of territory, talking with a lot of you Farm Bureau leaders, members, friends and allies. There's one common tune that everyone sings. Times are tough in rural America. We have fought drought and floods, ruinous prices and costly regulations. We don't know what the weather holds for us in 2000. But other news is discouraging. Farm income is expected to decrease this year. Analysts predict the value of our exports may fall further.

These are just a few of the reasons why we need a strong, active Farm Bureau working for solutions. Through Farm Bureau's policy development process, producers of all commodities come together to develop programs to benefit farm and ranch families. During times like these, cooperation is vital. Each of us can get lost in our own problems, our own situation. However, through Farm Bureau, our individual voices are magnified, our strengths intensified.

We need programs that provide stability and foster profitability. Farm Bureau delegates recognized this. Delegates plainly and loudly reinforced the organization's support for existing farm programs, with more emphasis on support for farmers when times are bad. They rejected calls to reintroduce supply management programs.

Farm Families Need Support, Not Talk

Many farmers and ranchers still want to work within the boundaries of the 1996 farm law, pursuing production flexibility while seeking better ways to manage risk. Rising supplies, falling purchases, increasing regulatory costs and decreasing export opportunities were not the factors envisioned when the FAIR Act became law. Farm Bureau is calling for rapid adoption of measures to provide counter cyclical income support to supplement farm program payments. This would not jeopardize the integrity of the current law. Instead, farm and ranch families would receive federal assistance during extraordinary times such as today's, when help is needed.

High on Farm Bureau's agenda this year is making sure that producers of all commodities receive attention, not just those with a history of farm program participation. Producers of virtually every commodity are receiving an insufficient reward for their efforts.

Fair Trade and Reasonable Rules Are Key to Ag's Progress

In order for this country to continue bragging about farmers' productivity and how it translates into affordable food for consumers, national leaders must follow through on promises made to us half a decade ago. The 1996 farm law was enacted with agriculture's support based on promises of specific additional actions. Elected leaders assured farmers and ranchers that there would be progress in opening foreign markets to our products and reducing unnecessary regulations. We're still waiting.

We appreciate and applaud the administration's trade expansion efforts. But we still face obstacles that could and should be overcome. U.S. farmers and ranchers don't expect special treatment. We do expect fair treatment. Where global trading rules are inadequate or ponderous, we call on our government to identify and work with those partners who agree to pursue fair and open trade policies.

Our elected leaders' failure to achieve regulatory reform is a major and costly disappointment. Tax reform, fairness and simplification did not happen in 1999. This must change. Arbitrary and unnecessary environmental regulations continue to cost us a bundle. Yet they provide nothing to benefit society. This must change. Farm Bureau's Number One priority is sensible implementation of a food quality protection law. Yet bureaucrats are using this law as an opportunity to write regulations that will eliminate the farm chemicals we need to provide safe, wholesome and abundant products.

Our livelihoods and our lifestyles depend on keeping U.S. agriculture dominant. Work with me. Work for yourself, your family, your industry, your country. What we must do is in our AFBF policy book. Working together in Farm Bureau, we can make a difference. Working together in Farm Bureau, we will make a difference.