By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Atlanta, GA, Jan. 9 – Citing an increasing burden from regulators who are ready to “downsize American agriculture, mothball our productivity and out-source our farms,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman told farmers and ranchers attending the organization’s 92nd annual meeting here that the group’s message to the new Congress is: “It’s time to stop the EPA” (Environmental Protection Agency).

At the very time agriculture’s environmental footprint is shrinking and productivity is on the rise, a litany of EPA regulations, from water and dust, to greenhouse gases and endangered species, has put agriculture in the crosshairs, Stallman said. AFBF will soon file suit against EPA regulations aimed at the Chesapeake Bay, which include provisions that will strip power from the states and potentially affect every farm and ranch in the nation.

“EPA likes to call the new regulations a pollution diet, but this diet threatens to starve agriculture out of the entire 64,000 square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed, and this new approach will not end with the bay. EPA has already revealed its plan to take similar action in other watersheds across the nation, including the Mississippi River watershed,” Stallman said.

Stallman urged Farm Bureau members to carefully consider the organization’s position on federal fiscal policy. He told members that an organization with Farm Bureau’s political and policy influence has “a responsibility and an obligation” to weigh in and help find solutions.

“It will require budget cuts and those cuts will be painful,” Stallman said. “Every aspect of our government and every program and service we enjoy as Americans will be on the table. This problem will not be solved with slogans, sound bites and symbolism. It will not be solved with partisanship that is focused on the acquisition of power, rather than solutions for our nation.”

Stallman told Farm Bureau members it is appropriate that the nation’s budget and deficit concerns drive the debate surrounding the 2012 farm bill. But he said “the historic and stabilizing role the farm program has played in American agriculture” also must be considered as the organization weighs policy options.

“Hard choices will have to be made. Demanding a balanced budget, with no new taxes and cutting government programs for everyone else while asking that more be spent on our concerns will not be well accepted as a solution.”

“As an organization that represents all regions and all production, this will be tough sledding,” says the Texas farmer and rancher. “But to ensure our position of leadership in the farm bill debate, we must have direction that is clear, a strategy that is inclusive and an outlook that is visionary.”

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