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December 2014

Advancing Agriculture in 2014


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

The mid-term elections are over. No doubt you’re as relieved as I am to see the campaign ads fade away. Now the holidays are already upon us. As we celebrate with friends and family, it’s a good time to pause, look back and give thanks for the past year. Not much sooner than the holiday dinner dishes are cleared from the table, we’ll also look to what we hope the next year will bring.

At Farm Bureau, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far this year, and we are eager to do even more for farmers and ranchers in the coming weeks and months.

Taking on the Tough Questions

Farm Bureau recently announced a historic agreement among agricultural technology companies and farm groups on farm data privacy and security principles. We have led in asking tough questions to ensure data remains secure as new technologies that make farming more efficient also expose farmers and ranchers to new risks. Farmers and ranchers overwhelmingly agree they should own their farm data, and Farm Bureau has played a leading role in educating them about asking the right questions before signing data sharing agreements.

Technological advancements also raise questions for consumers – questions that farmers must be willing and able to answer if we are to maintain access to biotechnology. Farm Bureau has equipped farmers with a new toolkit to help them answer consumers’ questions and dispel biotech myths, and we will be rolling out more resources to explain why agricultural innovation is important to us all.

Speaking of the recent elections, we were pleased to see that voters in Colorado and Oregon recognized that state initiatives requiring that “GMO” products be labeled as such would do more harm than good. Rather than a state-by-state or county-by-county patchwork, we support a national labeling bill introduced in Congress. Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, but the information should be based on facts, not fear.

Standing Up to Regulatory Overreach

The EPA and Corps of Engineers also have been hard at work this year – trying to place more roadblocks on the productive use of farmland. The agencies’ Waters of the U.S. proposed rule amounts to an unprecedented land grab, as its vague and confusing language leaves plenty of loopholes for the agency to regulate most ephemeral drainage features, ditches and small wetlands on farmland and pastures, even if they are only occasionally wet. Hundreds of thousands of comments have been submitted to the public docket, many of them from landowners who joined Farm Bureau in calling for the agencies to Ditch the Rule.

Farm Bureau expects the 113th Congress to be hard at work on this and other key issues in the remaining weeks of this year. It’s time for regulatory overreach to stop standing in the way of common farming activities. We were pleased to see the House stand with farmers and ranchers by passing H.R. 5078, which would block implementation of the “WOTUS” proposed rule. Farm Bureau is urging the Senate also to act before the year ends.

Investing in the Future of Farming

Another top priority for farmers and ranchers is action on several important tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. Farmers depend on tax incentives like bonus depreciation to increase their cash flow and allow them to purchase equipment without taking on too much debt. Restoring these provisions would help boost rural economies as farmers and ranchers plan their business decisions for the next season.

In a few short weeks, Farm Bureau members from all around the nation will gather in San Diego to set the agenda for next year, while the new Congress will be just getting under way in Washington. As we look to what’s next, we can also be proud of how agriculture has united for action this year, to ensure farmers and ranchers can keep doing their work of feeding a growing world.