Agriculture Hopes to Hear Support for Safety Net

President's State of the Union will be closely watched in farm country.

Published on: Jan 24, 2012

President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday will likely be as much about what Obama hopes to achieve in the next four years if re-elected as about the last four. American Farm Bureau Federation Executive Director Mark Maslyn says front and center for agriculture as the President prepares to make his State of the Union Address is a sound farm safety net.

"Given the limited resources of the Federal Government, what is the proper way to spend a dollar in building a safety net," Maslyn said. "We think that the appropriate role for the Federal Government is to be there in those instances where you have a severe catastrophic or deep loss that shakes the fundamental structure of the farm business as opposed to just a small downturn in revenue."

Maslyn calls that the fundamental role of U.S. farm policy, to have a safety net that works not in good or even poor times, but in rare catastrophic times, the kind of deep loss coverage AFBF delegates endorsed at their recent annual conference.

Maslyn says if one of Washington's goals is to stimulate the economy, then easing back on the regulatory throttle ought to be an Obama Administration priority.

"We saw the President last year in his State of the Union address, specifically reference, the regulatory agenda and what he was doing to try to minimize it," Maslyn said. "Frankly we have not seen that; it has been a very aggressive regulatory agenda aimed at agriculture and this seems to be continuing."

Whether it's the XL Pipeline permit, water or climate change regulations or those affecting foreign guest workers, Maslyn says it's time to put politics aside and focus on real solutions . That may be tough in a highly-charged election year where deficit-reduction politics is so closely tied up with tax policy and extending key tax breaks, the estate and capital gains breaks and those for biofuels, wind and research.

"Last year was a very political year and this year is only going to get more political as we head toward the election," Maslyn said. "More and more people talk about a lame duck session and a lot of these difficult issues, including the farm bill, and deficit reduction and the debate on taxes being postponed until after the November '12 elections."

Maslyn says the large tax issues for ag can only be addressed if the Congress and White House work together, something they were hardly able to do last year.