February 6, 2004
AFBF delegates back
By Mike Barnett
In response to a case of BSE found in a single cow in a Washington state dairy herd, delegates at the American Farm Bureau convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, supported the establishment and implementation of a national animal identification system.
Noting that such a system is already on fast-track for both industry and USDA, delegates suggested it should be cost-effective and should provide support for animal disease and eradication, as well as enhancing food safety. Also, delegates said "A national system of animal identification with adequate cost share agreement among industry and producers should be established and regulated by an advisory board of producers, processors and USDA officials."
Delegates also took several actions to improve food safety and bolster consumer confidence in the food supply. They referred for further consideration to the AFBF board of directors a recommendation to ban from the food supply livestock that are "neurologically impaired or sick." They also asked the board to further consider a position that would allow into the food supply only animals that are non-ambulatory due to hoof problems or shipping type injuries. Delegates asked the board to consider support of an incentive program to "encourage the active monitoring, testing and holding of all non-ambulatory animals for BSE and other neurological diseases."
New policy was also adopted on the controversial Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) issue. Texas Farm Bureau delegate efforts to make COOL conform to newly-adopted state policy for a voluntary system narrowly failed. New policy adopted expressed concerns that the USDA COOL rule proposed on Oct. 30, 2003 does not address producer concerns about cost and benefits, among others. Delegates supported continued discussions on mandatory COOL, pending the implementation of a national livestock identification program, and that providing recommendations on the future implementation of a COOL program include the concept of establishing a recognizable "national logo" that designates USA produced products.
Livestock identification and COOL were but two of the livestock-related issues that dominated discussion in the opening hours of the business session. Texas Farm Bureau delegates were instrumental in changing a more restrictive policy on packer ownership to conform with state policy adopted by the TFB membership at their December 2003 convention.
Led on that issue by Outstanding Young Farmer & Rancher Award winner Donnell Brown of Throckmorton, the Texas delegation was successful in striking policy that favored a ban on packer ownership of cattle more than 14 days prior to slaughter.
"I don't want to take a buyer out of the market," Brown said. "I think the key issue is to not allow packers to manipulate the market."
To that end, Texas language was adopted to "support legislation that would prohibit packers from manipulating the number of captive supply cattle slaughtered from week to week in order to manipulate the cash market."
TFB District 8 State Director Dan Dierschke was instrumental in denying an effort to place into policy a referendum on the beef check-off every five years. While expressing absolute support for the beef check-off, Dierschke said dollars would be better spent promoting beef rather than voting on it.
"AFBF has enough cattlemen in its membership to call for a referendum if one is needed," he said. "My point is, our resources, collected from the beef producer, should not go into an election every five years. It should go toward education and promotion."
In other action, Texas delegates were successful in tweaking policy on federal crop insurance to allow for circumstances unique to Lone Star State producers. Among those considerations:
Allowing farmers planting new crops to be eligible for crop insurance the same year that new crop is planted.
Using actual production yields rather than National Agricultural Statistic Service survey yields to calculate GRP insurance policies.
Abolishing or modifying the three-in-one rule that requires a farmer to plant and harvest a particular program crop at least one out of three years in a field in order for that crop to be eligible for crop insurance.
Inclusion of a provision in crop insurance to provide coverage for losses due to regulations of a guaranteed disease.
Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke said the Texas delegation accomplished most of its goals. "I think this was probably the best delegation in my time in Farm Bureau," he said. "I'm extremely proud of their accomplishments."
In other actions, delegates reaffirmed their policy supporting renewable energy sources such as ethanol, biodiesel, wind energy and biomass, and unanimously approved a sense-of-the-delegate-body proclamation urging "Congress to immediately pass an energy bill with a renewable fuel standard."
Regarding international trade, the delegates said Farm Bureau's highest trade priority is obtaining a successful conclusion to the multilateral Doha Round of the World Trade Organization negotiations. Delegates also said that agriculture's best opportunity to address trade issues is the multilateral arena.
Expressed support for providing a one-time opportunity for farm workers with legitimate documentation to earn legal authorization if they fulfill appropriate work requirements in agriculture. Delegates also voted to support amending the Fair Standards Labor Act to provide compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay for employees.
Called for broader authority for the Justice Department regarding anti-competitive business dealings in which marketing opportunities are restricted by a limited supply of buyers in the agricultural marketplace.
Expressed support for a crop insurance program that would allow producers to opt out of crop insurance coverage with the provision that those who do so are not eligible for federal disaster payments for crop losses.
In other convention news, former Texas Farm Bureau president Bob Stallman, a cattle and rice producer, was re-elected to his third two year term.
Steve Appel, a Washington state wheat and barley grower, was re-elected to his second, full two-year term as vice president.