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Published January 17, 2013, 05:43 PM

Farm Bureau talks policy

Board members discuss immigration, farm bill at annual convention.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

NASHVILLE — As American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman urged Congress to pass a full five-year farm-bill in 2013, delegates to the annual convention last week gave its board full leverage to take positions on the farm bill and also endorsed an immigration reform proposal that has been worked out by a coalition Farm Bureau has joined.

Last year, Farm Bureau wanted a “deep loss” program to provide benefits to crop farmers in case of catastrophic loss, but Congress never showed much interest in the proposal. Farm Bureau’s position has been that if the “deep loss” program would not be enacted, it wanted a choice between the “shallow loss” program proposed by corn and soybean growers and the “reference price” program favored by rice and peanut growers.

But on Jan. 15, delegates voted instead to delete those specifics and instead say farmers should have a “choice of program options.” Southern delegates said they wanted to keep the reference price in the platform, but they lost, with 54 percent of the delegates voting for a more vague policy.

Immigration reform

At a news conference, Stallman noted that the delegates had endorsed the policies of the immigration coalition that the organization has joined. That coalition favors provisions that would allow foreigners to enter the United States through contracts and also to be employed on an “at will” basis.

The coalition has said that the policy must work for both the fruit and vegetable industry, which needs seasonal labor, and the dairy industry, which needs workers year-round.

Stallman also noted that the delegates had a vigorous discussion about supporting raw milk, but a majority voted to establish a policy that only pasteurized milk and milk products should be sold for human consumption. Delegates approved the measure in light of the potential risks to public health and food safety posed by consumption of raw milk.

Delegates reaffirmed policy supporting changes to the dairy safety net, consistent with the margin insurance programs included in versions of the farm bill approved by the House and Senate Ag Committees.

In his address to the convention on Jan. 13, Stallman said Farm Bureau members “need the new Congress to show the leadership needed to pass long-term farm policy and enact the kind of reforms that the Senate and House Agriculture Committee have approved.

“We just elected and re-elected leaders for a new term,” Stallman said. “We must let them know that our nation can no longer afford political drama, manufactured crises and self-serving jackass stubbornness. We have grown tired of that ‘reality show.’”