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The Ag Agenda

December 2009

2009: Taking Pride in Our Accomplishments

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

As 2009 comes to a close, I would like to give consideration to the fine year it has been. Granted, the agriculture industry has faced challenges this year, both legislatively and economically, but we have also been blessed with many successes. First and foremost, the Farm Bureau family continues to be strong, with an effective voice in Washington and throughout the nation. And while the economic storm in the heartland has not yet fully passed, the sun is starting to peak through the clouds.

Recap of Successes

Farm Bureau’s most recent successes came in the form of two state ballot initiatives in Ohio and Texas. The Ohio Farm Bureau played a groundbreaking role in not only getting Issue 2, a measure to establish the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, put on the ballot, but passing it in a 64-36 vote. Further, the Texas Farm Bureau led a successful effort to support the rights of property owners with passage of Proposition 11, by approximately an 8-2 margin.

On the national front, farm bill implementation played a major role in the American Farm Bureau’s legislative efforts earlier this year. We were able to convince the administration to allow reconstitutions on farms of fewer than 10-acres to allow some of the 460,000 farms back into the farm program.We also played a key role in convincing the administration to reverse a previous rule that would have eliminated the base from all federal lands, thereby stripping the safety net out from under producers who farm this land, and we encouraged the administration to use 2007/2008 as the base years for calculating ACRE payments, thereby making it a significantly more useful program to farmers.

As far as agriculture appropriations go, AFBF was able to persuade Congress to increase funding for agricultural research, as well as to include additional funding for computers and information technology. Further, working with the Interior Committee on appropriations, we were able to get a one-year reprieve for agriculture from the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas reporting requirements.

We should all be proud of these accomplishments.

On the Horizon

Farm Bureau successfully launched the “Don’t CAP Our Future” campaign against climate change legislation on Capitol Hill. This campaign will be key as we move into 2010 and Congress refocuses on the cap and trade issue. The most noteworthy part of this campaign is that every Farm Bureau member can get involved and have their voice heard. In fact, I highly encourage all members to pull a farm cap from their closet, sign the bill with their autograph and hand-deliver it to their congressional member with the message “Don’t CAP Our Future.”

As we move into 2010, AFBF will continue to play a lead role in a multi-year effort to block Congress from enacting legislation that would remove the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act and allow the Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency to regulate all interstate and intrastate waters. It’s important we block this ongoing plot that would literally allow the government to regulate every pond, ditch and gutter on a farmer’s property.

Also on the radar is the capital gains tax that is scheduled to return to the top rate of 20 percent after 2010. AFBF will be urging Congress to take action to preserve the lower rate structure we currently have. Capital gains taxes not only influence the financial well-being of farm families but can also impact the number and size of farms, their organizational structure, and their use of land, labor and capital.

With the ups and downs of the markets, producers will continue to sit on the edge of their seats. Unfortunately, our backsides have grown quite accustomed to waiting out the low tides of the farm economy. Next year will be no different, and we can weather whatever challenges are thrown our way. The important thing to remember is that with our continued strength as an organization and embodiment of Farm Bureau ideals, together we can ring in the New Year with optimism and resolve.