Executive Vice President
photo credit: AFBF Photo, Mike Tomko
In 2023, my first full year serving as executive vice president at the American Farm Bureau Federation, I enjoyed witnessing the complete cycle of the grassroots policy development process, from county Farm Bureau meetings to last year’s convention in Puerto Rico. Together, our farmer and rancher members have accomplished much, and we have the potential to do even more in 2024.
Farm Bureau took a giant step forward on the right to repair issue in 2023 by signing memorandums of understanding with five farm equipment manufacturers. The agreements formalize farmers’ rights to access tools and parts to repair their equipment. Our members called upon us to find a private solution to this issue, and we answered that challenge. Now, almost three-quarters of agricultural equipment in America is covered by right to repair agreements.
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major victory for America’s farmers and ranchers in its Sackett v. EPA ruling. The justices ruled unanimously that EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Water Act. It forced EPA to rewrite the Waters of the United States rule. Our work continues to create a rule that is clear and concise, while protecting our nation’s waterways.
Together, our farmer and rancher members have accomplished much, and we have the potential to do even more in 2024.
Every American should be urging Congress to pass a new farm bill as a top 2024 priority. This legislation is a critical tool to ensure our nation’s food and farm security and to meet new challenges, continue innovating and advance sustainability goals. While Congress passed an extension of the 2018 farm bill, providing short-term stability and allowing for more time to get revisions right, a new farm bill must be a priority in the new year. Supply chain challenges we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, trade wars and weather disasters are just a few examples of why we need modernized legislation. The farm bill has always been a bipartisan effort and we encourage lawmakers to work in that spirit to get the job done early in 2024.
Securing labor remains one of agriculture’s most frustrating challenges and urgent needs. The H-2A visa program doesn’t provide enough workers to meet the demand of many farms, and a flawed wage calculation system makes it difficult for many farmers to afford help. AFBF has long called for a bipartisan, workable solution for labor reform and while we were unable to find that solution in 2023, it must be a top priority for lawmakers in 2024 to create meaningful labor reform.
Many of the trade issues we faced in 2023 will continue into 2024. The U.S. Trade
Representative’s case against Mexico to reverse its ban on biotech corn remains open under the provisions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. This ban puts food security in Mexico in jeopardy and unfairly disadvantages America’s farmers, who are committed to growing safe and affordable food for families here in the U.S. and around the world. Mexico must live up to its commitments under USMCA.
We’re also concerned that the U.S. is falling behind other ag-exporting countries in forming new trade agreements. Trade leaders must refocus on finding new markets and rebuilding relationships with former trading partners in order for the U.S. to be successful in the global marketplace.
Modernizing dairy policy
Last year was a big year for dairy policy, with the start of USDA’s multi-part Federal Milk Marketing Order reform hearing, which Farm Bureau called for starting in 2022. As the hearing resumes this year we’ll keep boots on the ground for as long as the process takes to advocate for the right reforms. We may not see the final outcome of the hearing until 2025, but something this important is worth the wait. It’s essential that we get this right for our dairy farmers, who haven’t seen meaningful change to the way their milk is priced in nearly 50 years.
Technology and consumer engagement
New and existing technologies, such as artificial intelligence, drones and gene editing will play an ever-growing role in our future. As social media continues to evolve and expand, consumers are demanding more information on where their food comes from than ever before. It will take all of us telling our agriculture story—to lawmakers, neighbors and consumers on social media—to ensure understanding and acceptance of these technologies that help us grow the most affordable, abundant, safe and sustainable food supply in the world.
These challenges and opportunities await us in 2024. I have no doubt that when the Farm Bureau family comes together to provide our unified voice, we will succeed in advancing priorities that help to ensure a bright future for farmers and for agriculture as a whole.
Joby Young is executive vice president at the American Farm Bureau Federation.