Status of Farm Bureau Priority Issues in Congress

Waters of the U.S.

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced changes to the Waters of the U.S. rule, including renaming it the Clean Water Rule. But American Farm Bureau says the rule is still detrimental to farmers and written so broadly that it would expand federal authority beyond the limits approved by Congress. The rule, which would increase federal authority over intrastate waters, is “flawed in both substance and process,” according to AFBF President Bob Stallman. Members of Congress have called for the rule to be withdrawn. The proposal has generated more than 1 million public comments and is a top Farm Bureau priority. The final rule is scheduled to be released soon. For the latest updates, visit

Death tax

Farm Bureau believes the federal estate tax, commonly known as the death tax, should be eliminated permanently. Ohio’s death tax ended Jan. 1, 2013. Although farmers have benefited in many ways from the federal estate tax exemption being raised to $5 million, it continues to be challenging to pass the family business from one generation to the next. In mid April, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 240-179 to repeal the federal estate tax. All Republican members of the Ohio delegation voted for the repeal and all Democrat members voted against it.

GMO labeling

Farm Bureau and the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food are seeking a federal solution to the labeling of foods derived from modern biotechnology. They are supporting the bipartisan Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, which would reinforce both the standards and authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in regulating GMO labeling. The bill would pre-empt state or local labeling requirements. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service would be in charge of creating protocol and labeling standards, similar to those used for organics, to voluntarily identify and market products as GMO-free.

Immigration reform

Farm Bureau opposes the Legal Workforce Act, which requires employers to check the work eligibility of all future hires through the Web-based E-Verify system.

The bill requires agricultural employers to use mandatory E-Verify pursuant to the requirements of the bill at least three years after the date of enactment. Farm Bureau opposes this legislation that would mandate E-Verify because it does not first make meaningful reforms to the agricultural guest worker program. Having an enforcement-only immigration approach could cause food prices to rise 5 percent to 6 percent, according to AFBF.

Pesticide regulation in or near water

A bill introduced by Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs would eliminate U.S. EPA’s duplicative regulation of pesticides that are used in or near waters of the United States. A 2009 decision in a federal appeals court erroneously applied the provisions of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting process under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to pesticide applications already fully regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act would eliminate the duplicative permitting by eliminating the requirements of a CWA permit for FIFRA-registered pesticides. The bill has passed the House Agriculture Committee.