Stallman: Farmers and Ranchers Still Optimistic Despite Washington’s Past Dysfunction

Taylor Hillman General

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While America’s farmers and ranchers achieved notable victories on the farm bill and waterways infrastructure legislation in 2014, agriculture must push harder for important policy reforms in 2015, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

Stallman, a cattle and rice farmer from Columbus, Texas, told Farm Bureau members gathered for their annual convention in San Diego that progress in Washington will only come through real but principled compromise.

“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 said. “It’s time for Congress to get back to work — to do their job so you can do yours.”

Stallman said that time to act in 2015 will likely be shortened due to pressure created by the 2016 elections for Congress and the presidency.

“Farm Bureau members will need to be aggressive, and we will need to begin our advocacy efforts as soon as possible,” Stallman said. “Farm Bureau members will also need to cut through the political noise.”

While true opportunities for policy progress could grow slim by the time fall rolls around, Stallman detailed the long list of jobs that remain before Congress, including:
• Immigration reform, which must include a reliable and legal workforce for America’s farms and ranches;
• A national, fact-based approach to food labeling, rather than patchwork regulation that only raises the price of food while doing nothing for food safety;
• Tax rules that will encourage economic growth and multi-generational farming and;
• Policies to continue growing our nation’s energy independence through the production of all forms of energy, including those that come from America’s farms and ranches.
And yes, he said, it was time for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to ditch the widely reviled Waters of the U.S. proposal, which would regulate land use under the guise of the Clean Water Act.

No matter what the outlook in Washington, there’s plenty of reason to remain optimistic, Stallman said.

“Whether it’s a shortage of labor or water, or floods, or hail, or windstorms — too much heat … or too much cold, farmers and ranchers across America keep working to farm another day,” he said.

Overcoming adversity is nothing new to those who have succeeded in farming and ranching, Stallman said. During the historic farm crisis of the 1980s, thousands of families lost their farms to foreclosure due to high debt and high interest rates, sinking demand around the world and depressed commodity prices. But today, while commodity prices have dipped compared to recent years, in general, America’s farmers and ranchers are better off than they were 35 years ago.

“That’s why anyone who’s been farming or ranching — or whose family has been farming or ranching — for more than 30 years is a living, breathing testament to the power of perseverance,” Stallman told Farm Bureau members in attendance.