AFBF's Stallman wants Congress to work so farmers can do the same

By Spencer Chase

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SAN DIEGO -- Jan. 11, 2015 - American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said it's time for members of the 114th Congress to show it's not another “do nothing” body of lawmakers and give farmers and ranchers much-needed certainty.

After a “long winter of division and inaction” by the 113th Congress that just went out of business, “it's time for Congress to get back to work, to do their job so you can do yours,” he said in his opening address to members at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 96th Annual Convention in San Diego.

Together we can feed the Bees"
Stallman encouraged AFBF members to “cut through the political noise.” He noted that “the ever-increasing polarization in our Congress means that Democrats are becoming more liberal and Republicans are getting more conservative and each party is beholden to its most partisan and outspoken members.

“We cannot ignore the extremes of the left and right. But we must speak to the center, the legislators in both parties who go to Washington because they want to make policy and get things done.”

Stallman highlighted many of the AFBF's successes observed in the past year, but also looked ahead to new challenges. He said he is confident the new congress can -- and will -- act on several issues key to the organization's members.

“The leadership in both the House and the Senate may be looking for bills that can garner bipartisan support and looking to move those early this year,” Stallman said, urging AFBF members to be proactive and aggressive on their advocacy efforts as soon as possible. “The realities of politics mean that these things must be done sooner rather than later.

“By fall, the focus will be squarely on the 2016 elections, and unfortunately, not on passing legislation.”

Stallman, who has been AFBF president since 2000, also noted the key role the group's efforts played during the 113th Congress and said he expects that the group's focus on policy will continue into the new legislative session.

“Farm Bureau members have shown time and again that they will not take no for an answer,” Stallman said. “This past year, Farm Bureau has been as successful - if not more successful - than any group in Washington in implementing our policy priorities.”

Stallman encouraged AFBF members to act on key issues for the organization such as immigration, maintaining the current farm bill safety net, “common sense rules” on the endangered species act, tax reform, addressing the rail backlog, issues of acceptance of biotechnology and unified labeling legislation, among others.

The Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule was also a key point of Stallman's speech, where he once again emphasized his belief that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers should ‘Ditch the Rule.'

“That's enough of trying to regulate land by calling it water,” Stallman said. “We cannot sustain the nation's food supply if excessive restrictions and regulatory costs make the business of farming and ranching economically unsustainable.”

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However, the Texas rice and cattle producer was not optimistic that the White House would be likely to offer growers any relief from their regulatory agenda. In a press conference with reporters after the session, Stallman said he didn't anticipate the next two years of regulatory efforts under the administration of President Barack Obama would be any different than the previous six.

Stallman also highlighted successes in working with the private sector, specifically the efforts on “big data.” In November, AFBF was one of 12 major farm organizations and technology providers that came together and agreed to a set of data privacy and security principles. He said this was an agreement “that would not have happened without a strong Farm Bureau.”

Convention activities officially began Friday, but this morning was the first general session of the gathering of about 4,500 AFBF members from across the country. It wraps up with delegate sessions on Tuesday and a board of directors meeting on Wednesday.

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