The American Farm Bureau Federation may have to backtrack on its support for a livestock market reform bill after a pair of votes by delegates at its annual meeting Tuesday.

On the geographically divided issue, the organization’s voting delegates decided Tuesday to maintain AFBF policy supporting a regional approach to resolving concerns over negotiated sales in the livestock sector.

They also voted, however, to oppose government mandates “that force any livestock slaughter facility to purchase a set percentage of their live animal supply via cash bids.”

The two ideas are key parts of a bill championed by a pair of Senate Agriculture Committee Republicans seeking to create a system of regionalized cash trade requirements in the beef cattle industry in a bid to improve price transparency in the sector.

Farm Bureau had previously endorsed the bill in line with the organization’s policies. Now, AFBF President Zippy Duvall says the group's leadership will need to study the issue.

“We will evaluate the bill itself and we’ll compare it to policy, and we will tell the board what parts of the bill agree with our policy, what part doesn’t agree with our policy, and then allow them to make a position decision,” Duvall told reporters after the delegate session.

The Farm Bureau board of directors is set to meet Wednesday in Atlanta, but Duvall said more time will be needed for the group’s review.

The board’s decision could put Farm Bureau in the sticky position of changing its position on a measure it once publicly backed. The organization has policy supporting some of the other provisions of the bill — a beef industry contract library, for example — and could decide it still supports the majority of the legislation even given its opposition to one specific provision of it. 

Zippy DuvallFarm Bureau President Zippy Duvall“If we change now … we’re not just pulling our support, we’re looking at joining the other team,” Michael Johnson, a delegate from Iowa Farm Bureau, said during floor debate. “We would lose the trust of senators when an issue that we have their back on, we suddenly flip on.”

Duvall said he discussed the possibility with Sen. Deb Fischer, the Nebraska Republican who introduced the bill along with Sen. Chuck Grassley and a bipartisan contingent of other senators, and said the two lead members had been made aware of the looming discussion.

“I think they both know our policy comes from our grassroots,” Duvall said.

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The group’s farm bill discussion was relatively limited, something Duvall attributed to delegates' trust in AFBF's internal review process. A national study committee is expected to detail its findings to the AFBF board “before we go public with what we think needs to be changed or supported in a new bill," he said. 

Delegates did, however, make some policy changes, including a call for higher reference prices “for all Title I Commodities,” improvements in Dairy Margin Coverage in the next farm bill, and making permanent a per-acre discount on crop insurance premiums.

Among numerous other changes, delegates voted to:

  • Support repeal of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which the group said “removed all dairy except for no-fat and low-fat products from schools” while passing language to support the inclusion of whole milk in food and nutrition programs;
  • Change the title of the group’s Farm Labor section to Agricultural Workforce and called for immigration reform legislation “that provides legal status for previously employed undocumented agricultural workers.”
  • Add a section on urban agriculture — “a growing segment of our industry” — to its Definition of Agriculture and support the “continuation or initiation” of urban agriculture.
  • Add several policy provisions to AFBF's health insurance language relating to vaccination against COVID-19. Vaccination, delegates voted, should be a personal choice that does not prevent a person from serving on a government committee. Opposition was also added to “all federal vaccination passports” and said one’s vaccine status “should not be used as criteria for medical insurance coverage related to COVID-19." State AFBF affiliates are prominent insurance providers in many parts of the country. 
  • Strike language that said countervailing duties “should be imposed on imports that are subsidized with trade-distorting subsidies.”
  • Add policy that supports allowing producers to “finish the growing season under the same regulatory conditions that they made planting decisions under.”
  • Support the creation of a federal program “to incentivize solar panel installation on farm buildings” and tweaked policy to support classifying base acres utilized in renewable energy projects as conservation acres with the goal of reactivating farm program support for those acres “when the renewable energy project is decommissioned.”
  • Call for new USDA reports on the dairy industry and passed a resolution calling for USDA reports to be released outside market trading hours.
  • Oppose implementation of Biden administration’s “America the Beautiful” 30x30 plan “in any manner inconsistent with our policies.” The plan calls for conserving 30% of U.S. land by 2030. 
  • Support action from the federal government to investigate “all agricultural monopolies.”

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