Lately it has seemed as if responding to COVID-19 and its impacts on farmers and ranchers has been the only thing that matters. Working to lessen the negative impacts certainly has been at the top of our list, and I’m proud of how Farm Bureau leaders and staff swung into action to address the disruptions we’ve seen in everything from access to farm workers and meat processing to ensuring Congress provides funding to help farmers and ranchers make it through the economic upheaval caused by demand shifts.
But we also continue to move our long-term policy priorities forward. Here are a few examples of how your Farm Bureau is keeping our eye on the ball.
Opening foreign markets continues to be a priority, especially as we work to get the farm economy back on track. A couple of weeks ago, U.S.-UK talks began. We are engaging with our agricultural negotiators to ensure we get a good deal with this key market, now that the UK has exited the European Union. We’re also continuing to push for agriculture to be included in any U.S. negotiations with the EU. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement should be going into effect this summer, now that all three countries, the U.S., Canada and Mexico, have approved it. We will be monitoring implementation of the new agreement to ensure that our closest trading partners adhere to their commitments. Speaking of implementation and enforcement, we’re also keeping our eye on China’s commitments in the Phase 1 trade deal announced to much fanfare in January. China will need to pick up the pace of purchases to meet its commitments, and we are watching to ensure it does.
On the regulatory front, we’re watching an effort in Congress to roll back the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which replaced the overreaching Waters of the U.S. or WOTUS rule. USDA recently announced a new final biotechnology rule that we support, so we have an eye on implementing that.
We’ve held a few conferences via Zoom, such as a Health & Safety Conference and Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference, and in place of our annual Environmental Issues Conference we have scheduled several virtual conferences on topics of interest.
We’re monitoring ag labor issues and more. The work of our organization goes on!
With respect to COVID-19, we’ve asked the Administration to look into price disparities between what gets charged for meat at the retail level and the much lower prices that producers receive from the packers. If there’s something fishy going on, we will get to the bottom of it and identify the best way to prevent it in the future. And of course we are working to ensure that agriculture gets the aid it needs in the Coronavirus Aid and Response packages passed by Congress.
I’ve never been prouder to be part of Farm Bureau or to see how hard our volunteer leaders and staff work for you, the American farmer and rancher.
Stay safe and well, everyone.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.