"Unfortunately, we have reached the point where Congress is falling down on the job of addressing the nation's needs – including your needs as the producers of our nation's bounty," Bob Stallman told farmers and ranchers gathered in San Antonio for the opening session of the 95th annual convention. Stallman is serving his seventh term as president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
He cited three crucial issues Congress has started on, but failed to finish -- the farm bill, reliable water transportation and agricultural labor reform.
"Members of Congress, the president and his appointees don't work for the government, they work for you. You promote some, fire a few, but you must hold all of them accountable. Your wisdom and voice are needed.
"Extreme partisanship and rhetoric have created a Gotcha atmosphere where political courage in in short supply. In contrast, you the nation's farmers and ranchers represent unity. This very gathering in about people from different regions and backgrounds coming together to develop policy that benefits all of American agriculture."
Stallman ticked off a list of what farmers and ranchers urgently need. "First, we are close to the finish line on the farm bill. The debate of the last three years, against a backdrop of relatively high commodity prices, has shown that much of the public has no idea what it takes to profitably farm and ranch. They don't that the understand costs of production add up to nearly as much as what a crop will bring in.
"They don't realize how much risk farmers take on. And they don't seem to realize that in the farm economy, downturns follow boom times as surely as night follows day."
Stallman declared it is vital that Congress finish the current farm bill by the end of January.
Long-overdue upgrades to the waterway transportation system is also critical, he continued. "The majority of our locks and dams that make rivers navigable were built in the 1930s. The good news is that both the House and Senate have passed the waterways bill, and we hope that Congress will approve the final bill this month."