Platform for AgricultureBy Stewart Truelsen
Next month both major political parties will hold their conventions. Bob Dole is the presumptive candidate of the Republican party, and President Clinton is seeking re-election. Both candidates are well-known to voters and are already running against each other. The conventions seem unnecessary, and no doubt many voters will tune them out.
Farmers, in particular, may have to guard against voter apathy. Agriculture is in the first year of a new farm bill that was signed into law by President Clinton and supported by Bob Dole. It sets farm policy for the next seven years.
But agriculture's agenda is far from complete. The American Farm Bureau recently submitted its policy recommendations to the chairmen of both National Platform Committees. They run the gamut from taxes to environmental regulations to international trade.
On federal taxes, Farm Bureau seeks elimination of the estate tax, indexing the capital gains tax for inflation and cutting the rate to a maximum of 15 percent. Farm Bureau supports tax simplification and other taxpayer-friendly improvements.
On property rights, Farm Bureau says, "No issue has become more onerous over the last five years than the intrusion by the federal government on the right to own and use property." When control of the use of property must be taken by the government, Farm Bureau believes landowners should be compensated.
Farm Bureau reminds both political parties that despite the rhetoric, little has been accomplished in the area of regulatory reform. In its statement to the platform committees, Farm Bureau says, "A fundamental shift has to occur with the emphasis on standards for outcomes rather than government requirements for how things are to be done. Focus is needed on incentives and technical assistance to do the right things."
On farm program legislation, Farm Bureau advises staying the course on the 1996 Farm Act. "Arbitrarily changing it after a year or two to meet some budget constraint or other policy issue is not an option." Farm Bureau also supports better enforcement of trade accords.
One of the top priorities at the moment for agriculture is reform of the Delaney clause. EPA is in the process of canceling agricultural pesticides because they violate the zero tolerance standard established for food pesticide residues. Farmers are losing valuable pesticides, not because they are a health risk, but because the ability to detect negligible substances has advanced far beyond the 1958 law.
Farm Bureau is also urging both political parties to push for a balanced budget amendment, which narrowly failed in the Senate this spring. Farmers and ranchers believe the amendment would bring about the budget discipline that is so sorely needed in Washington.
These are important issues that agriculture hopes to hear something about during the national political conventions.
Stewart Truelsen is director of broadcast services for the American Farm Bureau Federation.