The American Farm Bureau is "ready to hit the ground running" to work with the new administration, declared Bob Stallman, president of the American Farmer Bureau Federation, in his opening address at the 90th annual convention in San Antonio, Texas on Sunday.
"Our organization has a 90-year history of working with both political parties. The 111th Congress will be no different," noted Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Columbus, Texas. "Tomorrow's food system relies on favorable public policy today. Working on issues is the bread and butter of Farm Bureau."
Stallman noted the nation's economy will be "Job One" for the new administration and Congress. "Farm Bureau members must address the debt that helped put us in the dire situation.
"With federal debt hurtling toward $11 trillion and a 2009 budget deficit projected to be $1.2 trillion plus, the AFBF board of directors created a Federal Deficit Tack Force to reenergize our efforts in this area," explained Stallman. The group is made up of eight Farm Bureau members from across the country who will gather information and focus on efforts in this area.
"Nations around the world are feeling the pain of our economic problems. Just as soon as we dig out of the current global economic disaster, the nation must return to its focus to longer-term deficit concerns and determine the best way to correct our course."
Stallman ticked off a list of key priorities for Farm Bureau including:
• Overhaul global trade negotiations -- "Clearly, the international trade negotiations of the Doha Round WTO talks have stalled.
• Move forward with regional and bilateral negotiations, regardless of progress or lack thereof in WTO talks. "We must continue to push for Congressional approval of the completed Colombia, Korea and Panama trade agreements and reach out to other countries to negotiate additional market openings for agriculture."
• Taxes – "We will continue to work on the death tax, capital gains tax and the alternative minimum tax. As we try to get the economy moving again, now is not the time to increase taxes."
• Immigration – "We urge Congress to enact meaningful immigration reform now."
• EPA rule dealing with manure management of concentrated animal feeding operations – "We are challenging the rule in court based on our belief that EPA has exceeded it's authority to regulate livestock farms under the Clean Water Act.
• Climate change – "Members of Congress and the new administration are setting their sites on climate change and farmers will be active in the debate. Where science indicates a real risk or harm, we will play our part in reducing or eliminating that risk," said Stallman. He also cautioned lawmakers to make sure science is not hijacked by those with a particular policy agenda.
• Energy – Stallman renewed the call for a comprehensive energy plan that meets all of America's energy needs.
The annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation continues through Wednesday when delegates will vote on resolutions for the organization.