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The Ag Agenda

January 2009

Ringing in 2009 with Optimism

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

It is time again to ring in a New Year and shake out the old. With the start of 2009 comes a new administration and Congress, providing farmers and ranchers with real opportunities to advance agricultural issues. But with opportunities always come challenges, and the road ahead won’t be without them. It never is.

Agriculture saw its fair share of ups and downs in 2008 – all the more reason to take last year’s lemons and use them to ring in the New Year with a nice tall glass of lemonade.

Meeting our Challenges

There are many opportunities awaiting farmers in 2009, but first we must overcome some of the hurdles still impacting farmers and ranchers. First and foremost, the collapse of our nation’s economy and its impact on the agriculture sector will have a lingering effect on producers. Getting back on track won’t be easy, but rest assured you have a strong voice at Farm Bureau advocating economic policies to help get our nation back on the right financial path.

Animal right activists will become even bolder in 2009, on the heels of their win in California on Proposition 2 this past November. Without a doubt, the animal rights activists have no plans of letting up. It is anticipated they will push forward with more statewide ballot initiatives and legislation. It is up to us as farmers and ranchers to become activists in our own right by engaging with consumers about modern agricultural production. We take great care of our farm animals. We need to have that conversation with consumers.

Climate change will be another challenge for the agriculture industry. We can expect increased legislation in Congress and more attempts at regulation from within the administration. Farm Bureau will use this year to look for opportunities to do our share to protect the environment while mitigating negative impacts on farmers from burdensome regulations.

When Opportunity Knocks

Each of these challenges leaves room for opportunities. There are many other issues important to farmers and ranchers in which we should take the bull by the horns. For example, we have a new president that is very supportive of renewable fuels. There’s never been a better time to advocate home-grown fuels that create green jobs and bolster rural America.

On the trade front, we are at an impasse in world trade negotiations. Farm Bureau is optimistic that with a new administration will come an opportunity to change the way we negotiate with world trading partners. We also have a real chance to further our efforts with agriculture labor, transportation and rural development issues.

These are the “known” challenges and opportunities that await farmers and ranchers. As your agriculture organization, Farm Bureau will be ready to meet these as well as the many “unknown” issues that arise in 2009.

As T.S. Elliot once wrote, “For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” In other words, it’s time for the Voice of Agriculture to start making lemonade.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2009.