ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 10, 2016 -- Bob Stallman opened the final convention of his 16-year tenure as president of the American Farm Bureau Federation on Sunday with a passionate rallying cry against government regulations that he said were stifling farm production and innovation.
One of the worst examples of this “overreach,” he told the thousands of Farm Bureau members attending the convention in Orlando, Florida, is the EPA’s Water of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, redefining the bodies of water that fall under jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
“When rainwater running across a farm field is all it takes to allow federal agencies to tell you that you cannot use your land, that is government regulations run amok,” Stallman said.
Stallman, a cattleman and a rice producer from Columbus, Texas, also pointed to EPA’s so-called “blueprint” for land use across the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay Watershed, a plan that the Farm Bureau is currently fighting in court.
“EPA is starting with the Chesapeake Bay watershed – but unless the Supreme Court steps in this latest EPA power grab will be coming soon to watersheds all across the country,” he said. “If we’re going to let the federal government dictate where we can and cannot farm – or cut trees or build homes, or otherwise use the land for any productive activity – then this is not the Land of Liberty. It is not the country that our forefathers envisioned – nor is it a country that will be able to feed itself for very long.”
Stallman promised that Farm Bureau, the biggest U.S. agricultural organization, would continue to fight against these regulations – to continue to defend farmers’ ability to work the land for future generations.
“As long as we have a national, unified voice of agriculture, farmers and ranchers will have a force to ensure that we maintain our agricultural strength and security,” he said.
“Generations of farmers and ranchers have survived bad markets and bad weather, but bad government should not be the straw that breaks us.”
Still, he said, he sees a bright future for agriculture, pointing to new technologies including drones, data mining and biotechnology. He had a special endorsement for genetically modified crops, which he said will be needed to feed a growing global population.
“I for one think that the GMO naysayers … those who claim to speak for the average consumer but shop only at Whole Foods… will eventually have to come around. Our world depends on it.”
Stallman compared his eight-term tenure as Farm Bureau president to those brief seconds a rodeo cowboy spends on the back of a bucking bull.
“My understanding is that the eight-second ride is the most terrifying, exciting, physically demanding and difficult challenge a person is likely to face. My ride for Farm Bureau over these last 16 years has all of those elements and more.”
In a press conference following his address, Stallman said there’s plenty of unfinished business for his successor, who will be chosen by Farm Bureau voting delegates on Tuesday. He said he hopes Congress will take action to kill the WOTUS rule, if the courts don’t do it first, and noted that the immigration issue “is still hanging out there.” He also said he’d like to see Congress approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year, but acknowledged that may be difficult in an election year.
When asked about Campbell Soup Company’s recent decision to label products made with genetically modified ingredients, Stallman repeated the Farm Bureau’s position against mandatory GMO labeling, although he said the government should have a standard for a voluntary label for GMO-free products.
In conclusion, Stallman said the most gratifying moments during his long tenure as AFBF president came from meeting farmers all across the country and seeing “their signs of appreciation” for his efforts to represent their interests in Washington.
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