STALLMAN: GRASSROOTS STRENGTH, STRATEGY DRIVE SUCCESS
SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 12, 2014— With an appreciation for agriculture’s heritage, farmers and ranchers are focused on the opportunities and challenges of the present, keeping their eyes on the road ahead, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.
|Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell joined Farm Bureau Presidents from other states to kick off the 95th annual American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in San Antonio, Texas. |
“If we keep our commitment to learn from the past, look toward the future and never let go of the wheel, I know that Farm Bureau will have a bright future,” Stallman told about 7,000 Farm Bureau members who gathered in San Antonio for AFBF’s 95th Annual Convention.
More than 100 Alabama Farmers Federation members were among those attending the convention, which includes educational seminars, a trade show, policy session for voting delegates and competitive events for young farmers.
Tuscaloosa farmer Clyde Leavelle said he was encouraged by Stallman's remarks and the work Farm Bureau is doing on the legislative and regulatory fronts.
"I was impressed that Farm Bureau is continuing to lead the way in looking to the future as well as taking care of issues we face collectively on the national level," Leavelle said. "I was particularly interested in the battle over EPA's efforts to expand its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. It's encouraging that Farm Bureau has made progress in opposing the unreasonable decisions made by EPA and the unreasonable control it's trying to exert."
Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas, also spoke about the example Farm Bureau members set during what was a bitterly divided Congress in 2013.
“This very gathering is about people from different regions and backgrounds coming together to develop policy that benefits all of American agriculture,” he noted.
While lawmakers are close to the finish line on the farm bill and the Water Resources Development Act, farmers and ranchers can’t wait any longer for effective, long-term solutions to the agricultural labor crisis, which has forced growers to leave millions of dollars worth of crops unharvested and threatens the country’s food security.
“Farmers and ranchers have been waiting for Congress to take action and work for solutions, waiting for them to put the nation’s needs above politics,” Stallman said.
Despite this time of congressional gridlock, few organizations have seen their key priorities passed by even one house of Congress, much less two, Stallman noted.
“The progress we’ve made speaks to our grassroots strength, our strategic focus and our credibility as the nation’s Voice of Agriculture.”
On the regulatory front, securing farmers’ and ranchers’ privacy is a growing concern, as are attempts to challenge farmers’ ability to use modern technology to increase crop yields and food quality.
“Instead of focusing on how to feed more and more people with existing land and water, and instead of allowing us to use food staples to address nutritional deficiencies in less-developed countries, some are intent on standing in the way,” Stallman said of state legislation and ballot initiatives that would require labels for foods made with biotech ingredients or even ban the use of biotechnology outright.
With the Environmental Protection Agency late last year putting the wheels in motion to propose extending federal regulatory authority to nearly every body of water in the country—and ultimately regulating so-called “waters” that aren’t even wet most of the time—farmers and ranchers are bracing for a fight.
Farm Bureau has also been working through the courts to stop EPA’s attempts to broaden its regulatory reach.
Disappointed with a loss in its case against the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay pollution limit rules, AFBF, along with Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, has appealed the ruling.
“Once again, we are saddled-up for the long ride in our fight for rational regulations that allow farmers to continue feeding America,” Stallman said.
Stallman highlighted West Virginia poultry grower Lois Alt’s court battle against EPA’s unlawful water regulations as a testament to the powerful results that can be achieved when people work for the good of the whole.
“Whether it’s a regulatory, legal or legislative issue, just think how much Farm Bureau could achieve if everyone was like Lois Alt—taking a long-term view and taking a stand for America’s farmers and ranchers,” he said.
Both Marshall County farmer David Ellis and Fayette County farmer Joe Roberts said a video about Alt's victory over EPA regarding storm water runoff was a highlight of Stallman's remarks.
"It makes me feel good knowing Farm Bureau stuck with them because an individual like that couldn't fight the federal government alone," Ellis said. "When you are facing adversity like that, the financial burden is hard to face by yourself."
"If farm organizations don't work together to head off (regulatory overreach), we are going to be fighting it individually," he said.
One challenge that Farm Bureau has turned into an opportunity is the aging demographic in agriculture. Farm Bureau’s rural development initiatives—like the organization’s partnership with the Department of Agriculture on Start to Farm and its support for the recently launched Farmer Veteran Coalition—put beginning farmers and ranchers on the path to success.
Stallman encouraged Farm Bureau members to take part in the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s effort to help create opportunities on farms for those returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
During the opening general session of the convention, Alabama Farmers Federation was recognized with Awards of Excellence in five categories: Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications.