fb - voice of agriculture
July 2003

Taking Stock of Progress, Priorities, Patriotism

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

July stirs thoughts of red, white and blue, family reunions, picnics and fireworks. It is the month when we gather to celebrate our nation's birthday and the uniquely American gifts bestowed by our ancestors. We celebrate our singular nationality and our unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I think we sometimes forget how blessed we are to be Americans. We have freedoms others only dream about. In fact, thousands risk their lives each year for a chance to come to our country. They see opportunity. They see a better life. They see freedom.

And, like now, Americans are sometimes called to defend freedom beyond our shores. This month, as we mark our nation's birth, we need to remember those brave Americans who remain overseas, defending many of the principles that have made our nation great.

Laying the Foundation

I believe that Farm Bureau is a great example of what is right about America. Our organization was founded on the principles of democracy, improving quality of life and unifying voices.

Farm and ranch families across the country decided to come together in order to strengthen their own farms by bolstering the entire industry of agriculture. They realized that working together, they could accomplish more than any individual acting alone. Through a democratic, grassroots process Farm Bureau establishes policies designed to keep producers profitable and improve their quality of life. That's how it started in 1919, and that's how it continues in Farm Bureau today.

In January, 409 farmer and rancher voting delegates representing all 50 states and Puerto Rico established Farm Bureau's official policies for 2003. With the year half over, it's a good time to review what's happened with some of our key policy positions. It's also good to recognize that we made notable progress with the help of many friends.

Mid-year Review

Since ensuring international market access for products of agricultural biotechnology is crucial for future trade of U.S. farm and ranch goods, we appreciate the Bush administration's commitment to pursue a case in the World Trade Organization against the European Union's five-year-old moratorium on new approvals of biotech crops.

A WTO decision, which most experts believe will favor the United States, is the only reasonable remedy available to U.S. growers -- to either remove the moratorium or allow retaliatory tariffs on EU products. And we applaud the administration for fighting on behalf of our trading rights.

Farm Bureau also appreciates efforts in regard to forest management. Changes proposed by the Forest Service and Interior Department focused on expediting certain forest health projects, resulting in better forest management, fewer catastrophic wildfires and an improved environment.

Forest fires scorched approximately 7 million acres last year. Many rural homes and communities were put at risk. Forest management reform has reduced red tape that prevented the removal of the type of undergrowth that fueled last year's fires. These efforts complement Farm Bureau's goal of restoring multiple-use and sensible management to our forests and rangelands.

While we are giving out mid-year kudos, we can't forget everyone who worked so hard to achieve a win on this year's tax cut package. Again, bold leadership from the administration was key.

Congress approved a total of $318 billion in tax cuts. That move will put more money immediately into the pockets of our hardworking farm and ranch families. Farmers and ranchers will be able to deduct more of their business expenses and they will realize a 5 percent cut in capital gains taxes when they sell land, buildings or breeding stock.

Just as there have been other victories so far this year, I expect additional progress on Farm Bureau's priority issues throughout the last half of 2003. The table is set with big issues such as preserving farm program funding, trade, renewable fuels, regulations and labor reform.

Achieving additional progress will probably be more work than a July picnic, but together we will get the job done. Not only is that the American way, but it's also the Farm Bureau way.