NASHVILLE, Tenn. – America’s farmers and ranchers have an obligation to provide input on farm program changes before outside forces do it for them, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said during his address at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 87th annual meeting in Nashville, where about 6,500 Farm Bureau members gathered.
Stallman pointed out that whether farmers and ranchers liked it or not, the structure of agriculture is moving away from those in the middle. As a result, he said government support of agriculture in 15 years is likely to be very different from the current program-crop approach.
Perseverance and success. Stallman recognized American farmers and ranchers, particularly those living near the Gulf Coast, for persevering when faced with enormous challenges last year.
He also explained that aside from hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, U.S. agriculture has done fairly well over the last few years, but success is uncertain this year. Stallman said major challenges await farmers this spring in regard to energy-related expenses.
Stances. Stallman pledged Farm Bureau would continue its advocacy on priority issues such as protecting private property rights and increasing domestic energy supplies.
Regarding domestic energy supplies, he said it is unreasonable that there are vast amounts of oil, natural gas and coal within the borders of the United States that cannot be touched.
Stallman said Farm Bureau’s position on trade is still strong and clear: The United States “will do its share to reduce domestic support, but developed and developing countries must also do their part in reforming and expanding market access opportunities.”
Guest worker program. Reforming the guest worker program is another Farm Bureau priority for 2006. Stallman cited new analysis by Farm Bureau economists that shows that failing to make immigration reforms would be costly for all farmers.
American agriculture will face a loss of between $5 billion and $9 billion annually if Congress fails to enact a workable guest worker program, he said. And net farm income will decline between $1.5 billion and $5 billion annually, according to American Farm Bureau Federation estimates.
Stallman said this would certainly lead to outsourcing some current U.S. food production to other nations.
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