by Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (DTN) — American Farm Bureau Federation will continue to concentrate the group's lobbying efforts on regulatory challenges from the Obama administration in 2015, the group's President Bob Stallman said Sunday.
Stallman, AFBF's president since 2000, opened the group's annual meeting in San Diego, Calif. where roughly 4,500 Farm Bureau members are gathered.
[EasyDNNGallery|799|Width|400|Height|400|position|left|resizecrop|False|lightbox|False|title|False|description|False|redirection|False|LinkText||]With the 2014 farm bill in the books, Farm Bureau is focused on ending the proposed rule Clean Water Act rule by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to redefine waters of the United States. The efforts to do this include running a parody video by members of the Missouri Farm Bureau on the waters of the U.S. rule. (See https://www.youtube.com/…)
Stallman said Farm Bureau members have come together to fight the federal “attempt to regulate nearly every drop of rainwater that falls.” He said agencies want to regulate all of the small, isolated wetlands, ponds and farm ditches, which he argued are not “waters” under common definitions.
“What they really want to do is take away your control over how you use your land,” Stallman said. He added, “I have two more words for EPA and the Corps … No, not those two words … That's enough!”
Stallman added that farmers and ranchers care about the environment and improving their farming practices, “But we cannot sustain the nation's food supply if excessive restrictions and regulatory costs make the business of farming and ranching economically unsustainable.”
Talking to reporters later in the morning, Stallman added his group's emphasis on the waters of the U.S. rule is to turn to Congress for help. “Our goal is to get legislation passed in Congress to stop it,” he said.
Stallman also touched on the need for Congress to find a way to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund from running out of money. The Highway Trust has required $8 billion to $9.7 billion in annual fund transfers to stay afloat in recent years, but the funding deficit is expected to grow. Congress may attempt to authorize a five-year highway bill this year, but lawmakers are divided about how to fund the shortfall. Stallman said he has seen highway dilapidation and overall infrastructure decline as he travels around the country.
“You can see the decline in our roadways as just one example,” Stallman told reporters. “We have to keep up our infrastructure in this country, because other countries around the world are spending great sums to try to improve theirs.” He added, “I drive some sections where I would hate to drive a big grain truck.”
He told reporters AFBF delegates will likely debate possible funding recommendations to Congress for transportation, but he did not want to preempt their discussion.
Stallman also noted that getting anything meaningful accomplished in Congress must come swiftly because of the encroaching presidential campaign season. “By this fall, the focus will be squarely on the 2016 elections, and unfortunately, not on passing legislation,” he said.
Facing criticism over farm programs is nothing new, but there are now growing political pressures on crop-insurance premium subsidies. Stallman said farmers and supporters need to make the case that risk management make sense by allowing farmers to have the tools to custom-design their own safety nets. That should be contrasted with the series of ad-hoc disaster programs that Congress has funded in the past. Cutting crop insurance would diminish farmers' ability to manage risk.
“To me, it's a much more rational system. It's one that works and frankly the amount of funding the taxpayer spends to support U.S. agriculture has been dropping,” he said. “We have to continue to make that case and explain what this program is used for.”
On the beef checkoff, Stallman said the primary focus of the Beef Checkoff Working Group has been to increase resources for the checkoff. Yet, Stallman acknowledged the challenges of trying to get the industry united around a checkoff increase. A united front is the only way Congress would be willing to approve a checkoff increase.
“We are still a ways from coming to a resolution I think will get legislation passed,” Stallman said.
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Posted by Jami Howell