fb - voice of agriculture
February 2001

Today's Blueprint for a Brighter Tomorrow

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

In Farm Bureau, January represents both the end and the beginning of our policy process. Last month in Orlando, delegates representing farm and ranch families from across the country adopted national and international policies, positions that will guide AFBF's actions for the coming year. This marks the end of our 2001 policy development process. Now, we work to implement those policies. By the end of the first few weeks of February, Farm Bureaus at the county, state and national levels will have developed interdependent action plans to help focus volunteer activity that will result in achieving our goals.

Our American Farm Bureau policy book lists 163 titled policies that contain thousands of member-developed and -adopted ideas to improve net farm income and enhance the quality of rural living. Based on impact and immediacy, your AFBF Board of Directors identified several as priority issues for us to address right away. The general areas are farm policy, trade, taxes and regulatory reform.

For the past three years, farm and ranch families have failed to receive adequate returns from the marketplace. It does not look as if we will break out of our economic slump in 2001. Federal farm policy will be altered, and it is up to Farm Bureau members to work with elected leaders to get the changes we seek, the changes that will benefit working farm and ranch families.

There are some basic points that Farm Bureau seeks to maintain in future federal programs. Producers appreciate the planting flexibility offered by current law, as well as the absence of mandatory supply management schemes and farmer-owned reserves. We believe the conservation reserve program is successfully lessening soil erosion and could be expanded.

Reforms for Rural Recovery

But, with agriculture having failed to participate in America's greatest boom times, it is clear adjustments must be made to federal farm policies. We will work for program payments that neither distort domestic production decisions nor negate our international agreements. Farm Bureau will propose and work to obtain various voluntary incentives that initiate or continue conservation practices to improve air, land and water quality and wildlife habitat. A countercyclical income assistance safety net program for farm and ranch families will also be a goal for us in the immediate future.

And, until international trade laws treat America's farmers and ranchers fairly, marketing loss assistance payments should continue. This is only fair since, over the decades, U.S. negotiators traded off our industry's rights to obtain foreign concessions that benefit only other U.S. industries. The American farmer's ability to produce wholesome food and fiber in abundance cannot be stifled, and we need to share our bounty internationally if we are to expect livable livelihoods. Externally, we will work with the administration as it seeks equality for America's farmers and ranchers in international markets. Our push is for the elimination of export subsidies, rapid reduction of tariffs and the abolition of health and safety restrictions that serve only to protect markets, not people.

Our personal financial situation will benefit not only from earning more, but also from spending less. So we are working now for fairer and simpler taxes. We will continue our drive to eliminate the estate tax and to create a voluntary savings plan that lets agricultural producers save pre-tax dollars and use them during times of economic difficulty. With so many of our farms and ranches now two-income households, getting rid of the so-called marriage penalty on income tax would also be beneficial.

When you think about it, many such tax reforms also could come under the heading of regulatory reform, since so many of our problems are not the result of legislation but of the implementation of the laws, as conjured by non-business backgrounded bureaucrats. One of our foremost goals is to get Congress, in its role of supervising agency actions, to standardize science-based risk assessments and cost/benefit analyses on all proposed regulations. This would go a long way in guiding agency efforts to implement laws addressing such critical issues as food safety, clean air and water and farm worker safety and availability.

Forge Your Future through Farm Bureau

Your organization enjoys a reputation for working with elected leaders from all parties. We can work with the new President, the new administration and the new Congress to implement our policies. How we will attain our priority goals is being discussed at national, state and county Farm Bureau meetings from coast to coast, border to border. How soon we realize these victories depends on you.