January 6, 2006
Dierschke calls for new
The president of Texas' largest organization of farmers and ranchers said that agriculture faces an uncertain future of rising energy costs, political threats to farm policy and potent new challenges to private property rights.
In his annual address to delegates at the 72nd Annual Texas Farm Bureau Convention, TFB President Kenneth Dierschke warned that agriculture faces a crisis that could force many farm and ranch families out of business.
"Farm Bureau is calling for a new and stronger focus on protecting private property rights," Dierschke said. "We cannot sit idly by while the courts, cities and legislative bodies at all levels ignore the basic freedom of owning and using private property."
Dierschke, a grain and cotton farmer from San Angelo, had especially harsh words for the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo versus New London case, a decision that, for the first time, sanctions the use of eminent domain to take private property for economic development.
"Are hard working farmers and ranchers now simply `caretakers of their land' until such time as a city or economic development corporation decides they can put the land to better use?" Dierschke asked. "Pastures and orchards near a major city may appear to some greedy eyes as nothing more than potential shopping malls and subdivisions. Cotton and grain fields might provide more tax base if developed."
The Farm Bureau president said agriculture cannot afford to let this happen.
Farm Bureau has backed legislation at the state and national level to "undo the damage" caused by the Kelo decision.
Dierschke said the current property rights threat also extends to utility rights-of-way, asserting that property owners are often left with little recourse and few options when their land is taken.
The farm leader also said that rapidly rising energy costs have threatened the ability of many farmers to plant a crop for 2006.
"Farmers engaged in the vital business of producing food and fiber for our nation are in real trouble, unable to afford the fuel to get them across their fields or the crop inputs they need," he said.
Farmers have seen the price of diesel for tractors, combines and irrigation pumps skyrocket in recent months, along with the cost of natural gas, a key component of fertilizer and other farm inputs.
Dierschke underscored Farm Bureau's opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor, the ambitious plan to build a network of super highways across the state, taking much farm and ranch land in the process.
He stressed the organization's willingness to work with industry, environmental groups and private landowners on environmental issues.
Dierschke said that Farm Bureau was and is involved in ongoing relief efforts to support the victims of the devastating hurricanes that hit the U.S. Gulf Coast last year.
"Farm Bureau was involved nationally in hurricane relief efforts, and legislative solutions to rebuild the devastated Gulf Coast, including that of Texas," he said.