"During this meeting, you must provide strong and clear direction regarding our next farm bill," says American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman at the opening session of the AFBF 87th annual convention.
Thousands of state farm delegates and members gathered in Nashville, Tenn. Sunday for the beginning of the convention most known for laying out the grassroots policies for the more than 5.6 million member families of the Farm Bureau.
High on the list of policy directives include the approach to the next farm bill debate. "We've heard some straight talk from Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns about his intentions," Stallman says. He adds that he expects to hear more tomorrow (Tuesday) during his visit with county presidents. "But as we all know, Congress writes the legislation, and will likely do so before the end of 2007."
Delegates will take up policy initiatives at Tuesday, with final votes cast Wednesday morning.
In Stallman's opening remarks, he also pushed the need for immigration reform in the United States that allows a viable work guest worker program. Current legislative efforts to amend existing immigration law could cause up to $9 billion annually in overall losses to the U.S. agriculture industry and losses of up to $5 billion annually in net farm income, Farm Bureau reports.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a native of Nashville, addressed the attendees and reiterated the need to strengthen the laws on the book while recognizing the unique labor needs of the U.S. agriculture industry.
Other hot topics Stallman highlighted include the push to STOP (Stop Taking Our Property) initiative created because of the Supreme Court ruling in the Kelo case, which allowed condemning property for the private benefit of others. Stallman explains that a Farm Bureau commissioned survey found that Americans oppose the use of eminent domain in general, by almost a 2 to 1 margin. In regard to the case specifically, 95% of Americans say they disagreed.
Be sure to check back to the site for continued coverage from the convention.