President Stallman’s annual address to Farm Bureau members this morning focused on the rich agricultural heritage of our nation. “Farm Bureau has a strong heritage and for 95 years this organization has brought farmers and ranchers together to accomplish collectively what they could never do alone….achieving national solutions to the problems that threaten their farms and their livelihoods.” No matter how big or small a challenge may be, Farm Bureau has always stepped up to meet the challenge.
An exciting opportunity came to Farm Bureau in 2013, Farm Bureau acquired a new business – IDEAg – a group of agricultural events and publications that furthers the Farm Bureau mission of enhancing the lives of rural Americans and strong agricultural communities. AFBF now owns several farm shows and the new business also includes Feed and Grain magazine which is the top publication for the nation’s feed industry. President Stallman told members these events and publications will offer new opportunities to broaden Farm Bureau’s reach and deepen our connection with farmers and ranchers.
President Stallman is excited about Farm Bureau’s partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. This program creates opportunities on farms for those returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nebraska’s Dustin Ladenburger, a third-generation cattle and crop producer and a Young Farmer and Rancher alum, is involved in this program. He is helping Kevin Comer, an eight year veteran of the Army Reserves, fulfill his dreams of becoming a farmer. Stallman encouraged Farm Bureau members who want to help veterans become farmers to talk to their state Farm Bureau or to visit the Farmer Veteran Coalition website.
President Stallman discussed Congress and the unproductive work year Congress had. Congress has fallen down on the job of addressing the nation’s needs – including the needs of farmers and ranchers. President Stallman sees three big needs for agriculture on Congress’ chore list. They are the farm bill, reliable waterways transportation and agricultural labor reform. “These are all crucial issues on which Congress has started the job, but still has to finish it.”
Stallman reminded members to think about what what they do on their farms when an employee doesn’t get a job done. “Members of Congress, and even the President and his appointees, get a paycheck from Uncle Sam. But they don’t work for the government. They don’t work for the political parties. They work for YOU. You are the boss…and it’s up to you to hold them accountable.” Stallman reminded members their wisdom and voice are needed and he has confidence that Farm Bureau members will spur their Senators and Representatives to act. And if members of Congress don’t act, we need to hold them accountable and replace them.
A growing concern today for farmers is precision farming data privacy and who owns or controls all of the information they are sending back to the companies providing the technology. Modern technologies clearly have great benefits for farmers but farmers are concerned about information security and who else might have access to their information. Hopefully our delegate body will explore these concerns during the policy development process this week.
Ballot initiatives and regulations requiring unnecessary labeling of foods that contain ingredients produced through biotechnology continues to be a challenge facing agriculture, President Stallman said. EPA also continues to try expanding their regulatory reach under the Clean Water Act. Last year they proposed extending federal regulatory authority to every water body in the country, even if its not navigable. The result will be many farmers and ranchers will need costly permits to do anything on their land and some farmers may not be able to get a permit. As Stallman so eloquently pointed out, EPA may be experts in many things but they are NOT experts on how to run our farms and ranches.
In closing, Stallman reminded members that each member has the power to be part of the Voice of Agriculture and that each member CAN make a difference! That’s why Farm Bureau has such a rich heritage. And now, its time to get our chore list completed.
chrischinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri, serves on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in San Antonio. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. She is one of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s “Faces of Farming.” Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).