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January 08, 2007   Email to Friend 

Tracy Taylor Grondine
(202) 316-6377
January 08, 2007

Stallman: Agricultural and farm spending are 'big targets.'
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- The American Farm Bureau Federation had a good year in 2006 in its efforts to secure public policy benefiting American agriculture, and numerous issues await the organization in 2007 as the 110th Congress convenes for action, according to AFBF President Bob Stallman.

In his opening news conference today to kick off the organization's 88th annual meeting, which runs through Thursday in Salt Lake City, Stallman pointed out issues such as immigration reform, farm program policy, agricultural trade and animal agriculture as areas ripe for action during 2007.

Heading into the national effort to develop new farm program policy, Stallman said it is evident that agricultural and farm program spending "have big targets" painted on them.

"I think we are probably better off from a budget perspective for agriculture working with the new Congress," he told reporters. " "But we will be dealing with a lower budget baseline to start with for agriculture due to higher crop prices because of renewable energy production."

He said commodity groups need to be more unified in their farm policy proposals "if we are to be as successful this time as we have been in the past." He said a revenue-based safety net provision is being discussed in farm circles, but as of yet, there is no unanimity on such an initiative.

Stallman said he does not see anything on the horizon to make him think there will be radical changes to the structure of U.S. farm policy, and that is supported by the notion that major alterations often lead to unintended consequences. He did say, however, that Farm Bureau policy will likely include greater flexibility regarding world trade talks.

"We need to write a new farm bill -- one that continues to give us a good stance for trade negotiations, but there will be greater flexibility," Stallman said, adding that Congress still must pay heed to existing world trade rules on issues such as fruit and vegetable production.

However, he said Congress should not "write a new farm bill based on any preconceived notion of what might be in a final WTO agreement."

"We want to have a successful Doha Round, but we are not willing to give away the farm to get one," Stallman said. "If we can't make worldwide progress, we will work to secure trade agreements with countries who want to trade with us."

Stallman called for Congress to renew presidential trade promotion authority. He admitted, however, that securing TPA for the Bush administration is going to be "problematic." And, he discounted the notion of linking TPA with other legislation, such as the farm bill.

Stallman said he believes the new Congress presents an opportunity for progress on immigration reform. He stressed that Farm Bureau supports a comprehensive effort to not only secure the nation's borders, but also provide agriculture an efficient guest worker provision.

He also said recent blizzards in cattle country will likely increase pressure on Congress to pass a disaster assistance program for agriculture and Farm Bureau is calling for such action.

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