fb - voice of agriculture
November 2002

People Power Runs Farm Bureau

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

When the going gets tough, farmers and ranchers turn to Farm Bureau for good reason. Farm Bureau is completing another banner year, celebrating many accomplishments and achievements. As president of the national federation, I try to attend as many county and state Farm Bureau meetings as possible. This year, in my travels to New England, the Deep South, the Far West and the heartland, it is apparent that our organization has never been stronger nor has it ever been more needed.

No organization can achieve all its goals all the time, but we try, and more often than not, we come close. We work diligently to transform member desires into political and economic reality. Farm Bureau's policy development work results in actions that improve lives and livelihoods throughout the country.

Years of decreasing prices, increasing costs and mean-tempered weather make membership in Farm Bureau more important than ever. To combat forces greater than ourselves, we work together through Farm Bureau to overcome challenges that no one could individually conquer. Our progress is noted by many and notable in many areas.

Tax Reform and Farm Program Triumphs

It is difficult to choose our most important achievement in 2002, the culmination of the 107th Congress' two-year session. This group wrote and President Bush signed the legislation that will phase out the "death tax" by 2010. Through Farm Bureau, farm and ranch families brought this issue to national attention, and we will do it again with the 108th Congress to eliminate the tax permanently.

Grassroots involvement also was instrumental in obtaining a new farm program that addressed many issues critical to our roles of improving the environment, providing national food security, contributing to economic productivity and feeding and clothing people. One of our top priorities in the farm bill, aside from adequate economic support for farm and ranch families, was expanding conservation opportunities and incentives. Proudly, we point to a record amount of funds devoted to assisting farm and ranch families implement conservation practices and wildlife habitat improvement.

Producing our commodities efficiently and abundantly is one goal. Selling our goods at a profit is another, and more markets mean more opportunity. Our efforts to support foreign trade expansion met a great deal of success this past year. Farm Bureau is a vocal supporter of giving the administration the authority to negotiate binding trade agreements that can later be ratified or rejected by Congress. We wanted this power for the past president, we want it for this president, and we want it for every future president. Trade Promotion Authority was granted to President Bush this year, in time for the U.S. to play a significant leadership role in international trade discussions among members of the World Trade Organization. Our country's goals mirror Farm Bureau policy to eliminate export subsidies, improve market access and reduce trade-distorting domestic subsidies.

Working with regulators, Farm Bureau was able to influence changes that were more beneficial to agricultural producers. The EPA will now use more realistic risk/benefit assumptions in their determinations and pay greater attention to science-based criteria. This awareness will protect our ability to use organophosphate chemicals. In addition, water quality standards will more realistically address farmland run-off.

Building for a Stronger Tomorrow

Some of our efforts did not result in action this year but laid significant groundwork for future success. For example, a renewable fuel standard was proposed that would have nearly tripled the amount of fuel produced from corn and soybeans, primarily. The value of home-grown fuel is especially apparent in these troubled times. Unfortunately, this proposal stalled as Congress recessed for elections. During the lame-duck congressional session, Farm Bureau will push hard for this proposal to be approved.

Farm Bureau grew in strength and stature this year, no question. And we are positioning ourselves to be even stronger. Our membership is at a record high – more than 5.2 million families belong to their local county Farm Bureau. We are expanding our marketing efforts to develop more member services and group benefits.

Your American Farm Bureau also is moving its headquarters to Washington, D.C. from the Chicago area to better consolidate our tools and professional know-how under one roof. We are convinced this bold course will make the world's most influential farm organization even more powerful. Expect more from your Farm Bureau to help members improve our incomes and our quality of life – our goals since we were formed in 1919.