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American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting: Farmers develop national policy
As Congress prepares to write a new farm bill, farmers at American Farm Bureau’s annual meeting laid out a plan to preserve the core purpose of the federal legislation while recognizing the nation’s fiscal situation.
Following the discussion of 369 farmer delegates, the organization is putting its support behind a catastrophic revenue loss program that can be applied to a wider range of commodities such as fruits and vegetables.
The program would work with a flexible range of crop insurance products.
American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said this approach will protect against the large-scale, infrequent risks that occur in agriculture, adding that farm production decisions should be based on market signals rather than government programs.
American Farm Bureau’s Farm Bill plan would get rid of direct and countercyclical payments and eliminate the need for ad hoc disaster assistance for crops, “which, as we’ve experienced in the past, offers no assurance to farmers when catastrophe happens,” Stallman said.
“Our delegates approved a policy that is flexible enough to work within the funding constraints we, as a nation, are facing, and the fiscal challenges we have a duty to address,” he said. “Our delegates recognize we need to move beyond the policies of the past and move toward programs to help producers deal with risk.”
Other policies decided by the nation’s farmers included seeking a comprehensive approach to reforming immigration, maintaining state authority over non-navigable waters, seeking estate tax and capital gains tax relief, preserving access to antibiotics and modernizing the regulatory process.
During his annual address to farmers, Stallman remained critical of what he characterized as over-regulation that puts unrealistic expectations on farmers.
“I am not sure how anyone could cast aspersions on farmers and ranchers for seeking regulatory certainty,” he said.
Also, saying Americans are tired of division, Stallman pointed to food as a path for unity.
“Folks, maybe, just maybe, we, as the producers of food in this country, can play a role to help unite instead of divide. It’s about time to put all else aside, and for all of us to stand up as Americans first.”
However, doing so may require a new approach, Stallman said.
“We have been guilty. I have been guilty, too often in the past, of telling consumers what we think they need to hear as opposed to listening and answering their questions, openly and honestly. That is changing,” he said.
Ohio Farm Bureau recognized on national stage
During AFBF’s annual meeting, Ohio Farm Bureau received Presidents Award for having the best programming in Agriculture Education and Promotion and Leadership Development. It also received Excellence Awards in those categories as well as for Member Services, Policy Implementation and Public Relations and Information.
Licking County farmers Matt and Rachel Heimerl advanced to the top 10 in the Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Awards program. Shelby Brammel of Hardin County competed in the Discussion Meet, which tests participants’ problem solving and group communication skills. Scott and Tracie Isler of Marion County represented Ohio in the Excellence in Agriculture program.
Vilsack announces proposal to consolidate FSA offices
Saying the USDA must “innovate, modernize and be better stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled a plan at American Farm Bureau’s annual meeting to close 259 of its domestic offices and seven international offices.
The plan would impact 131 of the more than 2,100 Farm Service Agency offices in the United States. In Ohio, this would result in the closure of Farm Service Agency offices in Brookville, Pomeroy, Springfield, Somerset and Carrollton.
USDA proposed closing other Ohio offices including the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service in Bowling Green, the Agricultural Research Station in Coshocton and the Food and Nutrition Service offices in Columbus and Cincinnati.
Photo caption: From left, OFBF President Steve Hirsch, First Vice President Sparky Weilnau and state trustee KeithTruckor were among the farmers representing Ohio at AFBF’s annual meeting. Photo by AFBF.