This week over 6,000 people gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for the 92nd Annual Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Farmers became a big part of “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe” when Rowe took offense at the saying, “work smarter, not harder.”
“What a silly way to separate knowledge from skill,” Rowe told attendees at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd annual meeting Monday. Rowe decided to celebrate people who work both smart and hard and knew farmers and ranchers do both.
“It seems like every time I go to a farm, there’s some type of issue,” he said, recounting what happened after three farm episodes aired.
American farmers are surrounded by angry activist groups, each with its own agenda, he said. “Our country is asking you to do more with less every single year and I see a lot of other agendas pushing at you. The rest of the country needs to understand what you guys do on a day-to-day basis. We are not sufficiently astounded that you guys feed [the world] every day.”
Rather than a spokesman, agriculture needs lots of advocates, Rowe said. These advocates can each use their talents to tell their story. He cited Troy Hadrick, a Farm Bureau member in South Dakota whose YouTube video attracted the interest of a furniture company owner who now sponsors a Nascar entry that promotes agriculture during races.
On Tuesday, delegates met at the Georgia World Congress Center to set Farm Bureau policy for 2011.
Delegates voted to maintain a strong farm income safety net, address dairy price volatility and urge greater oversight of regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection Agency.
As Congress prepares to draft a new farm bill later this year and in 2012, the delegates reiterated their support for extending the concepts of the 2008 farm bill.
“The 2008 farm bill has worked as farmers and ranchers have weathered market ups and downs over the last four years,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “It’s important to maintain a program that protects our nation’s food, fiber and fuel supply and the consumers who rely on agriculture’s productivity.”
Farm program baseline funds should not be diverted outside the farm bill, the delegates said. The new farm bill should maintain a strong “safety net” that consists of direct payments, a simplified Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program and the countercyclical, marketing loan and crop insurance programs. Overall, however, they adopted policy that provides flexibility to move forward with farm policy within the budget framework that will become clearer later this year.
Keynote speakers included Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Whatever the desired end result—biofuels diversification, improved crop insurance or a farm bill that meets rural America’s needs without breaking the bank—innovation is where it starts, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told farmers and ranchers at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd annual meeting.
“We need an economy that creates and innovates,” Vilsack said. “We know it can work because it’s worked in agriculture.”
Last year’s potential record farm income is primarily due to farmers’ productivity and heart, according to Vilsack, but the trade surplus agriculture posted—the only trade surplus among the many sectors of the U.S. economy—helped too.
Vilsack said administration officials are working to ensure more trade opportunities by resolving ongoing trade disputes, tapping into emerging markets and building relationships in fragile, fledgling markets, like Afghanistan.
“We’re hopeful Congress will act on the Korea Free Trade Agreement, which will provide momentum for other agreements,” he said.
Looking ahead to the 2012 farm bill, Vilsack cautioned that lawmakers will have to be creative with limited resources, but the safety net critical to so many producers will be preserved.
The Northern Ag Network’s Russell Nemetz is covering the meeting and said “the weather in Georgia is acting a lot like that at home but it isn’t stopping Farm Bureau members .
Farm Bureau members from across the nation including those from Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota are in Atlanta this week.
During the awards program on Sunday, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) captured the esteemed President’s Award as well as three Awards for Excellence at the American Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Atlanta. The MFBF won the Awards for Excellence in the areas of Leadership Development, Member Services and Public Relations and Information. They received the President’s Award for Member Services. President’s Awards are the “best of the best” and are presented for excellence in each five program areas to states by membership category size.
Montana Farm Bureau also won the Navigator Award for outstanding membership growth. Montana Farm Bureau was the first state in the nation to make quota for hitting the goal of membership growth for the coming year.
A lot of issues are being discussed this week including livestock and crop outlooks for 2011, social media, and the new Farm Bill.
The key issue driving debate on the 2012 farm bill in Congress will be deficit reduction, according to Roger Bernard, news editor of Pro Farmer.
“Our policy makers in Washington will have some difficult choices to make,” Bernard said at a seminar Sunday at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd Annual Meeting. “The 2012 farm bill will be dictated by what kind of numbers the House Agriculture Committee is given by the Budget Committee. That really is going to drive what moves forward.”
Bernard reminded Farm Bureau members that farm program spending is still a very small part of the federal government’s budget. He said the Agriculture Department controls just 2.15 percent of the federal budget, with 75 percent of USDA’s budget directed to nutrition programs.
Of the $924 billion 10-year funding projection for USDA, direct payments to farmers comprise just 5.3 percent of the total while commodity payments to farmers fall just short of 7 percent, according to Bernard.
“Eliminating those direct payments just doesn’t get you very far when it comes to reducing the budget deficit,” Bernard said, suggesting that Congress may tweak eligibility requirements for federal nutrition programs as a means to reduce the deficit.
“Congress can make sure that people who receive the benefits of these programs really need the benefits of the programs. Lawmakers can propose it in a way that makes it more palatable,” Bernard said.
On Sunday during his annual address, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman thanked America’s farmers and ranchers for their hard work and commitment to helping to feed a growing world population.
(Photo courtesy of ZimmComm New Media)
He also didn’t mince words about the “self proclaimed food experts” and federal bureaucrats in Washington, DC.
Stallman said “With a $10 billion budget and more than 17,000 employees, the Environmental Protection Agency has ramped up its regulatory force at the very time agriculture’s environmental footprint is shrinking. We will not stand idly by while opponents of today’s American agriculture try to drag us down; try to bury us in bureaucratic red tape and costly regulation; and try to destroy the most productive and efficient agricultural system in the world.”
In regards to the 2012 Farm Bill, Stallman said “budget and deficit concerns will drive the debate as never before. Strong, assertive policy on farm programs must emerge from this meeting. Choices and priorities must be established because right now, there are more questions than answers.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation 92nd Annual Meeting concludes January 12, 2011.
The 2011 Ag Connect Expo is taking place in conjunction with the AFBF meeting and is showcasing the latest in farm and ranch equipment, technology and ideas.
Source-Northern Ag Network & American Farm Bureau Federation