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January 11, 2012   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
January 11, 2012

Voting delegates re-elected Bob Stallman of Texas (above) president of the 6 million member organization during the AFBFs 93rd Annual Meeting. Barry Bushue of Oregon was re-elected as vice president.

HONOLULU -- American Farm Bureau Federation voting delegates set the tone for their business session early Tuesday when they approved a resolution calling on Congress to balance the budget and begin reducing the federal debt by 2019.

The farmers' sensitivity to America's financial crisis was evident later in the day when, during an hour-long debate on farm policy, the delegates defeated an attempt to leave support of direct farm program payments in the organization's official policy.

Instead, the farm organization answered AFBF President Bob Stallman's call for "clear direction" in the farm bill debate by approving policy to preserve crop insurance, increase commodity loan rates and develop a new catastrophic revenue loss program to protect farmers from extreme weather and market changes.

Alabama Farmers Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker said the policy will allow Farm Bureau staff to work for the best possible farm bill in a tough budget environment.

"With commodity prices high and America facing record debt, congressional leaders have told us that farm bill funding will likely face deep cuts, including elimination of direct payments," Walker said. "The policy approved this week shows good faith on the part of farmers to be part of the solution to our budget problems. At the same time, it preserves a safety for farmers and gives the staff the flexibility to develop protection against severe losses without boxing us in to a specific formula or program name."

AFBF staff had worked on a catastrophic loss program they called the Systemic Risk Reduction Program (SRRP), but delegates removed references to SRRP from the policy.

“Our guys don’t like the name, but they like the principles,” Stallman said.

In other business, the delegates approved a policy recommended by the Alabama Farmers Federation to make the most productive farmland ineligible for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general signup.  An amendment was added to the policy that would allow all types of land to be enrolled in the continuous signup, which is designed for small tracts of land used for conservation buffers. Last fall U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) sponsored legislation to limit the program to less productive land and reduce the maximum enrolled acres.

Other policy actions included preservation of Farm Bureau's support of the Renewable Fuels Standard. The delegates affirmed their support to repeal the federal estate tax or, at a minimum, increase the exemption level and index it to reflect rising land values.

Farm Bureau leaders also expressed their opposition to the mandatory use of the federal E-verify program for farm workers and support for the development of a portable agricultural visa program for migrant workers. In light of the World Trade Organization's declaration that the United States' country-of-origin labeling laws violate international trade agreements, the Farm Bureau delegates agreed on policy supporting a voluntary COOL program.

In other business, delegates re-elected Stallman of Texas president of the 6 million member organization and re-elected Barry Bushue of Oregon vice president. Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby was re-elected to the AFBF Board of Directors.

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