American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman says the biggest news story for agriculture in 2009 was weather extremes, from the drought in California and Texas to the wet planting in many parts of the country and the unseasonably cool and wet harvest in many areas.
In an American Farm Bureau Newsline interview, Stallman said the cool, wet harvest created quality problems in many parts of the country. “It was really kind of an unusual weather year for U.S. agriculture,” Stallman said.
The other big news was the economic crisis that hit all aspects of the economy, some more than others.
“We had hogs and the dairy industry under a lot of economic stress,” Stallman said. “We had much lower commodity prices than we had in 2008, while at the same time producers were still coping with higher input costs. So from an economic perspective, we took a significant decrease in net farm income, even though we still had a relatively high level. That created a lot of anxiety for producers.”
Another major agriculture news story for 2009 was the continuing attacks on animal agriculture from animal rights groups, which resulted in legislation and ballot initiatives in several states to regulate livestock production and management practices.
“The biggest issue we face is that the American people are so far removed from agriculture and the way livestock and their meat is produced that they accept the emotional arguments which are not fact-based that the animal rights groups use to pass legislation to restrict the way producers raise animals,” Stallman said. “We do care for our animals. We would not be successful otherwise and we do take care of their welfare. We just have to do a better job of telling that story to a public that really doesn’t understand much about production agriculture.”