fb - voice of agriculture
November 2004

Patience Pays Dividends During 108th Congress


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

One word comes to mind when analyzing Farm Bureau's accomplishments during the 108th Congress. That word is "patience." And, as William Shakespeare wrote, "Though patience be a tired mare...she will plod."

Patience was vital over the last two years, as this session of Congress was seldom easy and, at times, even less expeditious. But, like Shakespeare's mare, Farm Bureau plodded steadily onward, focused on our mission and public policy goals. In the end, with your steadfast support, we scored a number of clear and resounding victories to enhance America's farm and ranch businesses and improve the quality of life in rural America.

A Big Win

It pays to be patient. One of Farm Bureau's biggest victories of the entire two-year term occurred just as the 108th Congress was beginning to wind down. By passing the American Jobs Creation Act, Congress launched a comprehensive package of initiatives that will create and protect American jobs, support our working families and energize rural America and agriculture.

Included in that bill was a key package of incentives to encourage increased production of renewable, homegrown fuels, such as ethanol. Biodiesel production, in particular, won as lawmakers approved a groundbreaking tax incentive for this growing segment of value-added agriculture.

The Jobs Creation Act victory also should put a stop to escalating sanctions being levied by the European Union against U.S. farm products. Otherwise, the cost to our industry would have approached $150 million in lost sales over a 12-month period. The legislation also established a fair tobacco quota compensation plan, which gives growers a fresh start and their rural communities a new reason for optimism.

Economic Health

Of course, it is so vital to the economic health of rural America and Farm Bureau members across our nation that we were largely successful during these last two years in defending not only the principles, but also the funding of our federal farm program. We are optimistic about working with the 109th Congress to ensure that our next farm program works as well to smooth the occasional economic valley our farm families face.

We all know that farms and ranches are capital-intensive businesses that require huge investments in buildings, equipment and land to produce food, fiber and fuel. Our win on the Jobs and Growth Reconciliation Act of 2003 was another pocketbook issue I am proud to have placed in the "win" column during the 108th Congress. That bill reduced the top capital gains tax rate from 20 percent to 15 percent, and the 10 percent rate to 5 percent, through 2007. This, in particular, was a patient, plodding victory. The cuts expire in 2009, but we will work during the 109th to make those cuts permanent.

Another 2003 victory worth mentioning was the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. Although it took three long years for this bill to make it out of both houses of Congress and onto the president's desk, we were patient. Today, that law supports our rural communities that are on the front lines and at risk whenever devastating wildfires occur.

During this Congress, we also worked successfully to maintain a viable "critical use exemption" for farmers and growers who use methyl bromide to protect their crops.

A True Workhorse

While not direct congressional matters, I must throw in two other quality, patient wins that occurred during the 108th Congress. After a long-running battle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would streamline the process for pesticide approvals. Your 30,000 letters supporting that move was a pure example of grassroots action at its best. We also led a successful effort to encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw a Clinton administration TMDL water regulation and asked the agency to use better data in developing Clean Water Act regulations.

Patience does pay off. In reality, however, when relating the 108th Congress to Shakespeare's plodding mare of patience, it must be conceded that, in fact, this Congress has truly been a productive and powerful workhorse for America's farm and ranch families. We look forward to patiently working with the 109th Congress to pull your plow down the row of future prosperity.