fb - voice of agriculture
September 2000

Member-Written Policies Bear Political Fruit

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

At the end of July, I was back home, harvesting rice. The year's hard work was rewarded with a heavy crop. As I was driving the combine, I thought about the hard work so many Farm Bureau leaders put in to achieve our organizational goals. And I especially thought about the work we had done over the past two years with the 106th Congress and what we have achieved so far. But that Congress is scheduled to adjourn the first week of October and many of Farm Bureau's most important legislative goals are still waiting to be enacted. A little more effort now and we can see Farm Bureau policies, written by farm and ranch families, become the law of the land.

There are several issues that we must concentrate on. First is passage of the agricultural appropriations bill that finances the bulk of our federal farm programs and projects. Conservation programs, humanitarian food aid and agricultural research all need to be funded before the close of this fiscal year on October 1.

Included with the appropriations bill is a measure to limit the president's ability to impose sanctions against specific nations. Currently, we are prohibited from exporting our farm products to six nations that buy as much as $6 billion annually on the world market. Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Sudan import commodities that represent nearly 14 percent of our rice market, 10 percent of our wheat market, 5 percent of our vegetable oil market, 5 percent of our barley market and 4 percent of our corn market. Such sanctions only hurt U.S. producers.

Help Secure Farm Bureau Priorities

Another "must pass" bill is one granting "Permanent Normal Trading Relations" to China. That nation is already a good customer of ours, importing about $2 billion worth of our farm products. Analysts expect their purchases from us to jump at least $1 billion with the enactment of this legislation. Now that the political conventions are over, the House-passed bill is expected to pass in the Senate and be forwarded on to President Clinton, who has said he will sign it.

The president has said he will not sign legislation to hasten the elimination of estate taxes. Perhaps with enough grassroots effort, the Clinton-Gore administration can be made to see the basic unfairness of this family farm-destroying scheme. Killing the death tax is one of Farm Bureau's major goals for this Congress and we still have time to make an impact.

Another of our top priorities is reforming food quality laws in a way that compels federal agencies to create their regulations in the way that the law intends. The Environmental Protection Agency persists in using faulty assumptions to improperly implement the law in their zeal to ban needed agricultural chemicals. Adding "sound science" requirements to the Food Quality Protection Act will help assure farmers' access to safe, economical crop protection tools.

Grassroots Action Influences Politicians

Legislation concerning renewable fuels made from agricultural commodities and farm labor also need our extra attention this month. A push is under way to reduce or even do away with standards affecting reformulated gasoline. Ethanol is a clean fuel additive while its petroleum-derived counterpart MTBE is increasingly showing up in groundwater analyses. This price-enhancing use of farm commodities needs to be preserved.

It is equally necessary to revise existing laws in such a way that it will assure an adequate, affordable supply of capable and competent farm workers. Legislation could still be passed that would streamline the processes to secure farm workers.

As farmers, we know our work is just beginning when we plant the seed. As Farm Bureau leaders, adopting our policies is just the start. Join me and all the other leaders of this organization as we work to obtain the policy goals established by America's farm and ranch families. Contact the President and your members of Congress to promote these goals. There is still time to put up a bountiful Farm Bureau harvest, even as we start planning for next year.