fb - voice of agriculture
December 2000

A Few of AFBF's Legislative Accomplishments in 2000

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

Many Election 2000 ads and analyses claimed that little was accomplished in Washington this year. I disagree, judging by the successful enactment of legislation that incorporates many of Farm Bureau's family-written policies. Some new laws involve immediate quick fixes; others offer hope for improvement and stability. No matter the party, elected leaders know a sound, productive agriculture is critical to the strength of this country and the world.

Our elected leaders in Washington responded to the economic weakness in agriculture, devoting billions of dollars to disaster assistance, compensation for loss of markets and economic aid. Commodities that have rarely received aid were included. The extra dollars devoted to assisting farm families were equal to almost half of U.S. net farm income for 2000.

Expand Markets and Cut Costs to Improve Net Income

Basic economic underpinnings of our agricultural sector must be fortified. Fairer access and treatment for U.S. farm products in world markets is critically important. Farm Bureau led the effort to expand trade opportunities with China. The population of the U.S. and Mexico totals almost 376 million people. China has that many children under 14 years of age, a total population of 1.2 billion. USDA predicts our farm exports to China will grow by billions of dollars within several years. Just as important, we will regain other Asian markets we lost because China subsidized their sales, something they can no longer do as a member of the World Trade Organization.

Farm Bureau also convinced Congress and the administration to eliminate sanctions which prevent us from selling farm products to nations that do not operate in a way we like. And we were instrumental in obtaining a law requiring the administration to rotate tariff penalties among European Union countries and food products to encourage them to open their markets to U.S. beef, as the WTO ruled. Farm Bureau also worked closely with U.S. negotiators to obtain favorable WTO rulings to our complaints against the EU on beef, China on apple concentrate and beef with Korea.

Accomplishments in other areas may not be as visible as those in trade, but they also offer economic benefits to farm and ranch families. Significant changes were made to the federal crop insurance program, improving benefits while lowering premiums paid by producers. In addition, pilot coverage programs will be developed and offered to livestock and specialty crop producers. We also secured more research money for USDA, some of which will be used by the Office of Pest Management Policy to conduct professional reviews of Environmental Protection Agency risk assessments. Additionally, we were successful in getting the dairy price support program extended.

The victory list continues – Department of Justice has an anti-trust lawyer devoted to reviewing agricultural mergers and acquisitions. The Bureau of Land Management must grant grazing permits to lessees when the agency fails to complete necessary environmental reviews within the allotted time. And we made headway in our regulatory reform battle with the enactment of "Truth in Regulating" legislation that will help Congress more effectively oversee regulatory agencies' actions. A regulatory change did occur after your AFBF asked the Internal Revenue Service to change the way farmers calculate taxes. Now, using income averaging, we can report a negative income figure in the equation and amend our 1998 and 1999 tax forms and get some of our previously paid tax dollars back.

Prepare to Implement 2001 Policies

Presidential action and congressional inaction thwarted two of our priority efforts. Repeal of the "Death Tax" was vetoed and a subsequent override failed by a mere dozen votes. And our mission to assure producers continued access to safe, economical agricultural chemicals attracted the support of a majority of members of Congress but progress was halted late in the session.

Both of these campaigns will undoubtedly be revisited once the 107th Congress opens for business. To achieve these and all our other goals, Farm Bureau members must play an active and vocal role working with our elected officials. Have a merry, peace-filled Christmas and then let us hit the ground running once our delegates determine our 2001 national policies.