STALLMAN URGES FARMERS TO SET POLICY COURSE
America's farmers have an obligation to provide input on farm program changes
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- America's farmers and ranchers have an obligation to provide input on farm program changes before outside forces do it for them, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said today during his address at AFBF's 87th annual meeting.
"For decades, agriculture has relied on our farm program as a sturdy bridge that gets us to the other side of the river and moves us on down our country road," Stallman said. "Today that bridge is beginning to sag under the weight of change. We cannot afford to wait until that old bridge collapses, and we end up swimming for our lives.
"We not only have an opportunity but an obligation to start building a new bridge soon. Our choice to do so will have consequences, not only for us, but also for future generations of farmers and ranchers."
Delivering his sixth annual address as president of the nation's largest farm group, Stallman warned that "the longer we wait, the more others outside of agriculture will see the decay of our bridge, and the more tempted they will be to build a bridge that serves only their needs at the expense of ours."
"Whether we like it or not, the structure of agriculture is moving away from those of us
in the middle," Stallman told Farm Bureau members. As a result, government support of agriculture in 15 years is likely to be "very different from today's program crop approach."
Approximately 6,500 Farm Bureau members from across the country are gathered in Nashville for their annual meeting, and Stallman recognized American farmers and ranchers, particularly those living near the Gulf Coast, for persevering when faced with enormous challenges last year.
"Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma not withstanding, U.S. agriculture has had a fairly good run over the last few years," Stallman said. "But we come into 2006 with a great deal of uncertainty. Major challenges await us this spring in regard to energy-related expenses," he said.
Stallman pledged Farm Bureau would continue its advocacy on priority issues such as protecting private property rights and increasing domestic energy supplies.
"Private property is the fuel that drives our great economic engine," he said. "This fundamental right must not be diminished by any law or court ruling. We must send a clear signal to our state and national lawmakers -- stop taking our property!"
Regarding domestic energy supplies, Stallman said it is "unconscionable that within the borders of this country there are vast amounts of energy in the form of oil, natural gas and coal, and we can't touch them."
Stallman said Farm Bureau's position on trade "continues to be strong and clear." The U.S. "will do its share to reduce domestic support, but developed and developing countries must also do their part in reforming and expanding market access opportunities."
Reforming the guest worker program is another Farm Bureau priority for 2006. Stallman cited new analysis by Farm Bureau economists that shows the price tag for failing to make immigration reforms "would hit all of us hard." American agriculture will face a loss of between $5 billion and $9 billion annually if Congress fails to enact a workable guest worker program, he said. And net farm income will decline between $1.5 billion and $5 billion annually, according to AFBF estimates.
"It is certain that this would lead to the outsourcing of some current U.S. food production to other nations," Stallman said. "We must not allow politics to stand in the way of our ability to feed Americans with food grown on American soil."