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Stallman critiques Obama administration

SEATTLE -- American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman praised the Obama administration Jan. 10 for the tough stand it is taking on the Doha Round of trade talks.

SEATTLE -- American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman praised the Obama administration Jan. 10 for the tough stand it is taking on the Doha Round of trade talks.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk "has made a very excellent case in Geneva on what the U.S. position is," Stallman said at a Seattle news conference at the group's annual meeting. Stallman said he was pleased that Kirk has told World Trade Organization and trade officials from other countries that a Doha agreement must reduce barriers to U.S. farm products if the United States is going to support it.

"I am impressed with that," he said.

Other trade lobbyists have suggested that the Obama administration should provide more leadership to move the Doha Round forward, but Stallman did not mention the leadership issue at the news conference or in his annual address to the membership.

Stallman listed Kirk's position on Doha first in his comments on the Obama administration's performance, but he also noted that bilateral trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which Farm Bureau supports, have been "left hanging."

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Farm Bureau's biggest problem with the administration has been its "propensity to regulate," Stallman said. He noted various EPA proposals and said the administration is inappropriately blaming agriculture for pollution in the Chesapeake Bay area and overregulating agriculture in the attempt to clean up the bay. Stallman also said Farm Bureau remains opposed to the House-passed climate change bill, but could support a measure that would encourage renewable electricity and provide more incentives for solar, wind, natural gas, coal and a "Manhattan project" for nuclear power. He said he considered concerns that ethanol changes land use patterns in foreign countries to be "phoney baloney."

Stallman said agriculture's worst problems in 2009 had been weather-related, but he said agriculture needs to fight harder against the animal rights movement.

"Studies show that consumers profess admiration for us. Unfortunately, that admiration does not always extend to how we do what we do," he said.

Stallman noted that Farm Bureau members include "farm and ranch families who produce grass-fed beef, free-range pork and cage-free eggs" as well as those who plant conventional seed, use biotechnology and raise livestock in sheltered, climate-controlled conditions.

"These are personal and business choices," he said.

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