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Published January 20, 2014, 10:01 AM

AFBF president Stallman says farm bill is "close to the finish line"

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman signaled at the group’s annual convention on Jan. 11 that Farm Bureau leadership is frustrated with House members who have not passed legislation, even though some of them are tea party-oriented members elected in rural areas.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

SAN ANTONIO — American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman signaled at the group’s annual convention on Jan. 11 that Farm Bureau leadership is frustrated with House members who have not passed legislation, even though some of them are tea party-oriented members elected in rural areas.

Stallman called on Congress to pass the farm bill, the water resources development and immigration reform.

“Some of you might think an unproductive Congress is not altogether a bad thing. I would agree … up to a point. Unfortunately, we have reached that point — the point where Congress is falling down on the job of addressing the nation’s needs — including your needs as the producers of our nation’s bounty,” he said.

He also noted that the Farm Bureau is participating in the Farmer Veteran Coalition website to try to help military “heroes build new lives on agriculture’s solid foundation.” “We could use more heroic efforts today in Washington, D.C. Extreme partisanship and rhetoric have created a gotcha atmosphere where political courage is in short supply.”

On the farm bill

“We are close to the finish line on the farm bill,” Stallman said. “It is vital that Congress finish the current farm bill as soon as possible this month. America’s farmers and ranchers need the certainty that comes from [a] five-year farm law. They need solutions and tools to make long-overdue upgrades to our waterways and transportation system.

“The debate of the last three years, against a backdrop of high commodity prices, has shown that much of the public has no idea what it takes to profitably farm and ranch. They don’t understand how the costs of production — feed, seed, fertilizer, equipment and other inputs — add up to nearly as much as what a crop will bring in.

“They don’t realize how much risk farmers take on, whether from the markets or Mother Nature, or how farmers face competitive pressures from countries that have far more generous subsidy programs than we have in the U.S.”

At a news conference after the speech, Stallman said Farm Bureau would support any dairy plank “that will get the farm bill passed.”

Immigration reform

Stallman devoted a lengthy section of his speech to immigration reform.

A survey by the California Farm Bureau found that 71 percent of tree fruit growers and nearly 80 percent of raisin and berry growers were unable to find enough employees to prune trees and vines or pick crops, he said.

The H-2A temporary agricultural worker program “artificially raises wages above the market rate and often does not bring workers to the farm until after the need for them has passed — after the crops have already started to rot,” he said.

Stallman also delicately urged farmers and ranchers who do not employ immigrant labor to support immigration reform.

“Even if you, personally, don’t need a lot of ag labor, just imagine how it would feel to see your crop rot in the field, how it would feel to have a year’s worth of work thrown away without any income because you could not find any help while Congress dithers and delays. Just imagine. We need to tell Congress to get this job done now.”

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