Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Just in from American Farm Bureau

Farm Bureau President: Tell Your Story, Engage on Issues

Washington--American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman is telling farmers that American agriculture has a great story to tell, and farmers and ranchers across the country must tell their stories, or be drowned out by critics “who are more than happy to tell the story of agriculture for us.”

Speaking Friday at the Louisiana Farmer of the Year Banquet, Stallman said farmers and ranchers continue to face many new threats. The challenges include federal regulations that go beyond the scope of law, taxes that threaten the future of family-based farming and extremists who oppose modern farms and ranches on every front.

Stallman said one-such challenge is federal cap-and-trade, climate-change legislation. A bill approved by the House would sharply cut the number of U.S. acres devoted to food production, replacing them with forest acres, at a time when experts says the world should be focused on feeding a growing world population.

“USDA suggests we could easily be talking about 59 million acres leaving food and crop production under cap and trade,” Stallman told the Louisiana farmers. “That would mean roughly the equivalent of every one of Louisiana’s 8.1 million acres of farmland, times seven.”
While the climate change policy battle rages on in Congress, the Obama administration is using a heavy handed regulatory scheme that could deal a harsh economic penalty to agriculture. In the case of the Environmental Protection Agency determining that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide endanger public health and welfare, Stallman said the agency overreached its legal authority.

“In its quest to ensure environmental quality, we believe the regulatory reach of the Environmental Protection Agency has simply gone too far,” Stallman said. “EPA issued a finding in December that determined greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. EPA’s action constitutes the first step toward economy-wide regulation of greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act. The agency is trying to achieve through regulation what has failed to pass Congress and failed as well at the recent international talks in Copenhagen.

AFBF is one of several groups that have filed a legal challenge to the EPA’s greenhouse gas “endangerment finding.” The organization also is backing bipartisan legislative efforts to disapprove of the EPA action.

Stallman also told the Louisiana farmers about efforts by AFBF to lessen the impact of federal estate taxes on agriculture. The tax is totally repealed for 2010, but comes roaring back with a vengeance in 2011.

“At Farm Bureau, we believe the estate tax should be repealed; it is an unfair, immoral tax,” Stallman said. “One should not have to deal with the undertaker and the tax man on the same day. But until the tax is repealed, we are urging Congress to work for meaningful estate tax reform by enacting an exemption of $10 million, indexed for inflation.

“As all of you know our farms and ranches are capital-intensive businesses with a high concentration of assets tied up in land, building and equipment. We are always land-rich and cash-poor. That’s why the estate tax hits our families so hard. That’s why we are calling on Congress to do all it can to help us preserve agriculture’s family connection and pass legislation to fix this problem.”

Stallman also took the Louisiana speech as an opportunity to repeat a call for unity, empowerment and inclusiveness among farmers and ranchers, against the many “external forces tugging at agriculture’s seams.”

“American agriculture is a big tent and it takes each and every one of us to put a meal on America’s dinner table,” Stallman said. “We must not let words used by critics drive a wedge between us. As we are attacked by the activists and critics of our great agriculture production system…and burdened with costly regulations put in place by our political leaders, we must not give in. We will not give up.”

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