fb - voice of agriculture
March 2002

Farmers Confident Tomorrow Will Be Brighter

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

Outside, it was the drabbest February day I can remember – temperature cold but the raw, biting wind made it colder, naked branches of trees pointing at the sky or at what little brown, beaten down grass could struggle through the cracks in the sidewalk. . . just plain bleak. Out on the street, it was real easy to feel depressed but one step inside, it was impossible because the enthusiasm and energy were contagious. I was at our national Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership Conference in Lexington, Kentucky where almost 800 of our best and brightest came to share and to gain knowledge and skills.

This group is eager to confront and conquer the future. They are highly literate, skilled information gatherers. They read trade magazines, listen to radio for news or get it off the computer but realize that there is more. So they allocate their valuable time to include meeting with their peers, for education and for entertainment. They see Farm Bureau activity and participation as a necessary management tool in their operations and a valuable opportunity to expand their personal and professional talents. Whether hailing from North, South, East or West, farmer or rancher, raising traditional or organic commodities, landowner, renter or tenant, male farmer or female farmer – our YF&Rs share many common hopes, goals and attitudes. They all possess great faith in themselves, their Creator and their country.

They do not hesitate to spend money to make money – to build their operations for future security by buying the most cost-effective inputs. They recognize the necessity of protecting their assets, as well. So they frequently consult with accountants and attorneys for estate building, protecting and planning. They are well aware of Farm Bureau's continuing role in permanently eliminating estate taxes. It is no surprise they are fervent supporters of killing the "Death Tax" since they see it from both sides, as heirs and as asset holders. And it is no surprise that they look to Farm Bureau to help them help themselves.

No Generation Gap in Farm Bureau

As I talked with these leaders, it became clear to me that us older YF&Rs share the very same goals, the same optimism, and the same confidence. The drearier the tail end of winter, the more eager we are to get into the fields, to plant the seeds, to welcome the new crop of young animals, to start the annual process of growth and renewal. Our eagerness is not based on selfish appreciation for the benefits of pastoral living that we enjoy. We recognize the awesome responsibility we bear in today's world to feed the multitude who are so far removed from self-sufficiency.

Just as we look forward to successful harvest of our commodities, we expect beneficial results from the work we have done previously to attain our most important policy goals. New farm program legislation is one example. Farm Bureau members have been in the forefront of public discussion of needed reforms to obtain a sound, sensible and productive farm bill. Such efforts are very near fruition, as they need to be if we are to benefit in this crop year.

Many Work Toward Common Goals

Similarly, we are optimistic about gains we will enjoy from revised and improved international trading rules resulting from new negotiations that are now under way. Two of our major goals will be better access to foreign markets for our products and more rapid and decisive action in handling our complaints about unfair import competition. These and other necessary refinements to the current trading system will strengthen American agriculture's profitability.

As individuals, we work with pride and skill to fill our bins and put a good finish on our animals. We know the sun sets on our day's accomplishments and the sun will rise, not for us to bask on yesterday's glories, but to permit us to continue to grow. Farm and ranch families of all ages work together to get results – not for us, but for all the YF&Rs yet to come down the road.