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February 2005

Setting Sound Policy for 2005

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

Establishing policy for a national organization is never a simple task. But when 433 farmer and rancher delegates met last month in Charlotte, N.C., for the American Farm Bureau’s 86th annual meeting, they successfully culminated months of hard work that began at the grassroots level and made it appear almost effortless. Because of a steadfast commitment, a deep love of agriculture and plain ‘ol hard work, Farm Bureau’s policymaking process was a triumph.

Staying the Course

While some of Farm Bureau’s policies were altered and new policies added, for the most part, the delegates left guiding principles on major issues unchanged. For example, on maintaining opposition to reopening the 2002 farm bill, the delegates’ message was clear: Stay the course. The delegates agreed to maintain the structure and funding of the current farm bill because of their firm belief that agriculture is strategically important to the nation, and should be treated as such.

Farm Bureau’s position on energy policy was also reaffirmed. As one of the organization’s top policy priorities, we will again push this year for passage of a comprehensive energy bill that includes incentives for renewable fuels.

Sound Science As Guide

With another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy detected in Canada during the annual meeting, Farm Bureau delegates were challenged to determine policy that would ensure consumer confidence while safeguarding U.S. agriculture. Delegates determined that Farm Bureau’s fundamental position would stand—that is, border closings and openings need to be based on properly implemented sound science. We want to ensure that things are done right in terms of animal health and food safety and we will work with our government to ensure that normalized trade with Canada is done in an orderly manner.

Farm Bureau has placed a high priority on getting the facts and determining proper implementation based on sound science and assessment. That’s why delegates approved a policy urging the Agriculture Department to report BSE results only after completion of the so-called “gold standard” test. Due to the impact on markets resulting from recent inconclusive BSE screening tests, this new Farm Bureau policy makes a lot of sense for consumer confidence and the U.S. agriculture sector.

Delegates also voted to support voluntary country-of-origin labeling for livestock products with the rationale being that while we are making progress to implement a comprehensive animal identification system at the national level, the ability to carry out a voluntary labeling program will naturally follow from that process. It is the continuation of an incremental change in Farm Bureau policy that started last year.

When it comes down to it, most policymaking is an evolution. For eighty-six years, Farm Bureau delegates have made sound, informed judgments that have progressed with changing markets, world events, knowledge and science. Yet, one thing has remained constant – that is, Farm Bureau members’ unwavering dedication to the process and their unwillingness to be a simple bystander in the policy arena.