Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Tuesday 01/14/14

Farm Bureau Delegates Debate Hot Topics

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (DTN) -- Delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention voted Tuesday to drop the word "amnesty" from their resolution language on immigration reform, while rejecting resolutions to change positions on raw milk sales and country-of-origin labeling.

The voting Farm Bureau members also supported a resolution to make participation in government surveys voluntary and backed a recommendation to the Farm Bureau board of directors to encourage elected representatives to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

On immigration reform, delegates struck language from their policy book opposing "amnesty programs." The group instead added language citing that "U.S. immigration policy must recognize that agriculture relies on immigrant labor as the jobs are arduous, often seasonal and migratory."

Farm Bureau members said the country must confront the problem of illegal immigration. The policy reflected some of the work done by AFBF President Bob Stallman, who is chairing an agricultural workforce group in Washington pushing Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Within Farm Bureau's resolution, the group supports a federal mandate on employers to use E-Verify as long as an acceptable agricultural worker program is in place.

In dropping the word "amnesty" from its books, Georgia member Skeeter McCorkle, a green nursery operator, said the word is "ambiguous, controversial and inflammatory."

COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN LABELS

Iowa Farm Bureau members failed in an attempt to tweak AFBF language to say country-of-origin labeling should not be mandatory for pork or beef. Iowa members argued that historically such country-of-origin labels were defined as a preponderance of where the value added occurred, not where an animal was born.

"COOL has become a serious and mandatory burden on pork and beef producers," said Paul Gieselman of Iowa.

Randy Knight, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, objected by citing consumer demands to know more about the food. "We owe it to the consumer for them to be able to make a choice when they go to the produce case or meat case," he said.

USDA just implemented a new COOL rule that already is being challenged by Canada and Mexico. Farm Bureau ended up keeping its language to strive for a COOL system that complies with the World Trade Organization rules.

California Farm Bureau VP Kenny Watkins said of the issue, "We need to make a WTO-compliant COOL that is still mandatory." He also noted growing consumer interest in the origin of food in the retail case. "Yet we can't even tell them it came from our country or another country."

STICK WITH PASTEURIZED MILK

One of the longer debates of the day centered on sales of raw milk. Proponents sought to change language on pasteurized milk to support "states' authority to regulate fluid raw milk sales."

Pro-raw milk groups cite at least 33 states have laws that allow the sale of raw milk either at the retail or farm levels. Another 17 states have specific laws banning the sale of raw milk for human consumption.

"Raw milk sales are going to go on regardless of whether we have a policy saying we don't want it to happen," said Brent Pollard of Illinois.

Yet, Farm Bureau delegates voted nearly 2 to 1 to stick with its position supporting only the sale of pasteurized milk and milk products.

"Food safety is a big issue around this country," said Zippy Duvall, president of the Georgia Farm Bureau. He added foodborne illnesses have consequences on industry. "One disaster will completely destroy a great industry."

David Winkles, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau, noted he and Stallman grappled with the issue last year and he was flooded with emails about the topic.

"This is a very passionate subject, one where the lines are drawn very clearly," Winkles said.

SURVEY SCHMURVEY

Given concerns about "big data" collection and the constant push of government surveys, delegates also voted to support voluntary participation in all government surveys, including the USDA Agricultural Census.

"Our membership is getting bombarded by surveys, particularly at certain times of the year ... We wonder how valid this information is going forward," said Richard Guebert, president of the Illinois Farm Bureau.

The resolution passed despite concerns that the lack of such information could hurt funding and program efforts at state and federal levels.

"When it comes to the government programs both at the state level and federal level, our legislators are using this information to determine budget items," said Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau.

OTHER ITEMS DECIDED

Biotechnology: Following the battles with China over unapproved seed varieties, delegates stated that "Extra efforts should be made to make farmers aware of markets where the products are not accepted by using such methods as color markings on bags, boxes or bulk delivery systems and/or seed tag."

Conservation: Delegates opposed fees for technical assistance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Drones: Farm Bureau introduced new policy supporting the use of unmanned aircraft systems for commercial purposes, including agriculture and forestry. The group opposes federal agencies using UASs for regulatory enforcement, litigation issues or as the sole source for government inventory surveys. Farm Bureau also opposes allowing UASs to be used for surveying or collecting data on private land without the consent of the landowner.

Obamacare: Not only did delegates vote to encourage the elimination of the Affordable Care Act, but they voted overwhelmingly to keep the language in their statement, "commonly referred to as "Obamacare."

Posted at 8:17PM CST 01/14/14 by Chris Clayton
Comments (1)
Farm Bureau stabs membership in the back, goes Politically Correct?!? First we could no longer call them wet backs, then we were scolded for calling them illegal aliens, and now "amnesty" is the verboten word? "Inflammatory"? Seriously? Nothing will suffice until we shut our mouths and pretend we don't notice the deleterious effect this temporary labor force has on taxpaying rural America the six to nine months of the year ag producers don't need their services. This reminds me of standing by, watching as farm organizations ate the crap sandwich fed to us by Environmental Working Group, eventually adopting THEIR buzzwords and themes of conservation above livelihood and sustainability above life itself. Now EPA mischievously releases names of CAFO farmers and ranchers, claiming it was a mistake, until they did it a second and third time. Now they don't even bother apologizing as they most recently released the names and personal info on CAFO employees. How convenient for PETA et al to troll for disgruntled people to solicit for PR nightmares ad infinitum. This turncoat move by AFB against the wishes of the membership by the top echelons of Farm Bureau will cost them dearly. If Rubio's fall from popularity didn't awaken him to the dangers of supporting Comp Immigration Reform he is tone deaf. Stallman may be getting invited to all the right DC parties now, but selling out rural America will eventually come back to bite the organization.
Posted by TX Tumbleweed at 12:09AM CST 01/30/14
Post a Blog Comment:
Your Comment:
DTN reserves the right to delete comments posted to any of our blogs and forums, for reasons including profanity, libel, irrelevant personal attacks and advertisements.
Blog Home Pages
September  2014
S M T W T F S
   1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30            
Subscribe to Ag Policy Blog RSS
Recent Blog Posts
  • Base Acre and ARC-PLC Deadlines Reported
  • Photo Fees on Public Lands? C'Mon, Man!
  • USDA ARC-PLC Rollout and Decision Tools for Farmers
  • Point, Counterpoint on EPA's Waters of the U.S. Rule
  • Point, Counterpoint on EPA's Waters of the U.S. Rule
  • Senate Committee Passes Railroad Regulatory Bill
  • U.S. Shanghaied in Smithfield Deal?
  • Route 66: The End of the Trail
  • House Votes to Block EPA WOTUS Rule
  • Vilsack on Easements, Rail and Livestock Aid
  • Base Acre Decisions Are Key to New Farm Bill
  • House Likely to Block EPA's WOTUS Rule
  • Clarifying Some SCO Issues
  • Senators Want GIPA Policy Limits Removed
  • EPA Water Rule Starts in the Ephemeral Streams
  • Looking at Base Acre Decisions Facing Farmers
  • Report: U.S. Lost WTO Ruling
  • NFU Leaders Want to Walk Away from Beef Talks
  • RMA Readying Details on Spring Crops and SCO
  • USDA Readies STAX for 2015