Looking back, looking ahead


by Bob Hanson, President Montana Farm Bureau Federation

Agriculture and Farm Bureau can look back at 2014 as being a good year. We saw a lot of unity with  farmers, ranchers, municipalities, businesses and others coming together to oppose EPA’s Water of the United States (WOTUS) Rule, which is a great overreach of power by a government agency. Hundreds of thousands of comments were sent in by Farm Bureau members across the country who want to “Ditch the Rule.” Not only did Montana Farm Bureau members step up to the plate on this issue, Montana’s Attorney General wrote a letter in opposition. Even if you’re not a farmer or rancher and you believe this rule won’t hurt you, think again. Everyone will affected by it.


[EasyDNNGallery|758|Width|300|Height|300|position|left|resizecrop|False|lightbox|False|title|False|description|False|redirection|False|LinkText||]We saw a historic agreement with farm groups and agricultural technology companies and farm groups on farm data privacy and security principles. Farmers and ranchers overwhelmingly agree they should own their farm data, and Farm Bureau has played a leading role in educating them about asking the right questions before signing data sharing agreements.

Farmers and rancher need to embrace new technology to keep producing food, and many find that biotechnology can help them reduce inputs and increase yields. That is why in the recent elections it was good to see voters in Colorado and Oregon recognized that state initiatives requiring that “GMO” products be labeled as such would do more harm than good. Rather than a state-by-state or county-by-county patchwork, we support a national labeling bill introduced in Congress. Consumers absolutely have a right to know what’s in their food, but the information should be based on facts, not fear.


Although tax provisions have been extended, we need to make some of these provisions permanent so farmers and ranchers can plan for the coming year. Farmers depend on tax incentives like bonus depreciation to increase their cash flow and allow them to purchase equipment without taking on too much debt. Restoring these provisions would help boost rural economies as farmers and ranchers plan their business decisions for the next season. 


Looking Ahead

There are always unknown challenges, but Farm Bureau members can meet these challenges in the coming year. Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic agree that a more open trade partnership makes sense, so it’s time the European Union puts politics aside and eliminates non-scientific barriers to trade. Any successful trade agreement must open restricted markets and encourage fair competition for all. As I can never say enough, trade is key to the economic future of Montana. Canada and Mexico are our top trading partners, and 80 percent of our grain and 60 percent of our agricultural commodities in general are exported.  We need to ensure the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) pass. This way, even when elections are made and regimes are changed across the globe, trade is not negatively impacted and Montana farmers can continue to enjoy the economic success of shipping their products to international markets. 


There will continue to be the challenges in 2015 especially by those who want to see agriculture go back to the “old days and old ways” with small farms raising a few chickens and the farmer in coveralls with 10 dairy cows trying to feed the predicted 9 billion people by 2050. Sorry to disappoint those who wrongly think that modern agriculture is bad, but our 97 percent family-owned farms and ranches will be moving ahead with technology like everyone else. What’s really exciting is seeing so many young people showing great interest, energy and ability to continue producing food and fiber for the world. I believe farming and ranching is in very good hands in the future, and that’s something we can all be pleased about.


Here’s to a happy and successful New Year!

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