By Zippy Duvall
President, American Farm Bureau Federation
Farmers and ranchers are ready for a common-sense, bipartisan approach when it comes to federal regulations and rulemaking. It’s time for agencies to work with farmers and ranchers and to consider how their regulations impact businesses and communities every day. And it’s time for Congress to hold those agencies accountable.
Federal agencies were created to serve the people. It’s shameful when agencies try to manipulate and intimidate through social media and other marketing tactics, like we saw with EPA’s Waters of the U.S. campaign.
These underhanded tactics need to stop. That’s the message Farm Bureau members sent straight to Washington from our 98th Annual Convention this year, as our delegates approved a special resolution urging Congress and the Trump administration to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass meaningful regulatory reform. Our members also sent messages asking lawmakers to pass H.R. 5, a comprehensive regulatory reform package, including the Peterson amendment.
On a bipartisan vote of 260-161, the House of Representatives approved Rep. Peterson’s (D-Minn.) amendment to H.R. 5. That amendment would prohibit agencies from lobbying in favor of their own rulemaking proposals. We were pleased to see the House choose that amendment as one of the first acts of 2017.
Our government was built on checks and balances. Our founders knew lawmakers and public servants would be tempted to place politics above the public good. Well, it’s time for a check on the federal overreach that has gotten out of hand. Agencies are not above the law nor should they be free to create their own laws as they see fit. That’s why our delegates also approved new Farm Bureau policy to eliminate judicial deference, which currently requires judges to defer to an agency’s interpretation of laws and regulations.
From mismanagement of public lands to crippling fines for plowing private farmland—federal agencies have demonstrated what happens when you try to give bureaucrats an easy way out rather than working on the ground with the people who know the land best.
I’ve visited with many of you face-to-face, in your states and on your farms. You’ve shared with me your stories of how regulatory overreach is hurting your businesses and families. I urge you to keep sharing your stories, and to share those stories with your representatives in Washington.
We talked a lot during election season about the need for rural Americans to get out the vote and make their voices heard. That’s just what happened, but we need to remember that our job didn’t end on Election Day. Lawmakers pay attention when droves of their constituents contact them about issues that matter in their communities. That’s just what we did at AFBF’s Annual Convention, when nearly 2,000 of our members sent messages to their elected representatives, right from the convention floor.
Just a couple of days later, the House passed H.R.5. I want to thank everyone who took action. You made a real difference! We need to keep on speaking up and holding our elected leaders accountable.
It’s the start of a new year in Washington, and a new year at the American Farm Bureau. We’re beginning 2017 with the same resolve that’s driven our work for nearly a century now: to strengthen rural America and build strong, prosperous agricultural communities across this great nation. But we can’t do that work alone. We need to work together across Farm Bureau and across the agricultural community to ensure that the important work of feeding, clothing and fueling our nation and the world continues well beyond the next 100 years.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.