WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2017 - The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) wants the Trump administration and the 115th Congress to make reform of the federal rulemaking process a top priority, according to the 351 voting delegates attending the organization’s 98th annual meeting in Phoenix this week. Among other things, they’d like the process to adhere to the use of sound science, allow more transparency by agencies and departments and prohibit agency misuse of social media to lobby the public in support of agency proposals, according to a resolution advanced by Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst.

That last item was aimed at the EPA and its 2014 outreach campaign in support of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. Farm Bureau’s grass roots campaign in opposition to the WOTUS rule was “Ditch the Rule” and in 2014, EPA responded with a campaign called “Ditch the Myth.”

The voting body, representing over 5 million farmers and rancher members, covered a lot of territory during their approximately six-hour policy-making session, including transportation, conservation, immigration, nutrition and farm policy. The most contentious debate came after North Dakota Farm Bureau President Daryl Lies successfully amended current AFBF policy to oppose requiring growers to meet conservation compliance rules as a requirement for crop insurance premium subsidies. “When you dance with the devil, the devil always leads,” emphasized Lies, who argued that working with environmental interests would lead to even more requirements in the future.

But later in the day, delegates voted 255 to 85 to remove that change and return to their previous policy. Minnesota President Kevin Paap said the linkage between crop insurance premium subsidies and conservation compliance is a realistic expectation in exchange for public support of agriculture.

“We have to talk in agriculture about continual improvement. We have to talk about what we can do better. Conservation is certainly one of those,” he said.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said he was pleased with the end result. “I think there was some confusion about the original amendment,” he explained. ‘But we wanted to keep our partnership” with the conservation community. In other delegate actions:

Beyond fresh: In response to complaints about the high cost of some fresh fruits and vegetables, California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger led an effort to incorporate all types and forms of domestically grown fruits and vegetables in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, giving priority to fresh and locally grown when available.

Right to repair: Delegates voted to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to require ag equipment manufacturers to allow equipment owners and independent repair facilities to have access to the same ag equipment diagnostic repair information made available to the manufacturer’s dealers and authorized repair facilities.

Pruitt endorsement: Calling Trump’s nominee for EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt a “breath of fresh air,” Oklahoma delegates urged and won the body’s support for his nomination. “As state AG, he successfully challenged regulatory overreach such as the waters of the U.S. and other climate-related issues,” their resolution noted. A reference to EPA as a “rogue federal agency” was deleted from the resolution before final passage.

Farm bill: While AFBF has taken a very early lead on developing farm bill background materials, the farm policy subcommittee asked for more in-depth analysis on four issues before they make policy recommendations. These include: Generic acres, Conservation Reserve Program, Agricultural Risk Coverage (county) and dairy.


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