January 6, 2006
By Mike Barnett
Kenneth Dierschke of San Angelo was elected to his fourth term as president of the state's largest farm organization in a contested election during the last day of Texas Farm Bureau's annual meeting.
Facing a challenge from former TFB District 11 State Director Bob Reed, a rice farmer from Matagorda County, Dierschke was chosen by the Farm Bureau delegates.
"Agriculture's been good to me for a number of years," Dierschke said in his acceptance speech. "I'll work as hard as I can to give back to agriculture. First and foremost in my mind are the farmers and ranchers of Texas."
With the failure of the Texas legislature to address school financing in both regular and special sessions, and with the Supreme Court ruling the state must find another way to fund public schools, delegates positioned the organization's policy to participate in the upcoming debate.
Addressing property taxes, delegates provided additional flexibility for the organization to evaluate property tax rollback proposals. They favored lowering the current appraisal cap of 10 percent and lowering the current rollback rate of 8 percent. In addition, delegates recognized the need to protect against the abuse of agricultural tax treatments by strengthening requirements for wildlife valuation qualifications.
Delegates voted to make the state's new eminent domain law, in response to the controversial Kelo vs. New London ruling, permanent by supporting a constitutional amendment. In a related item, delegates supported a landowner having the option of selling development rights or an easement versus the loss of title of land through eminent domain for mitigation purposes.
Delegates supported the use of sales tax receipts by community economic development corporations to develop and encourage businesses that will process or add value to agricultural products.
In other state action, delegates voted to:
Support the Texas Animal Health Commission having the authority to close Texas borders to the importation of certain traditional or alternative livestock, and opposed transfer of such powers into the hands of the legislature, or any other agency.
Support legislation granting producers a "Hold Harmless" position from any changes that occur after their production is sold and leaves their control.
Delay country-of-origin labeling for beef cattle and hoofstock until after implementation of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
Oppose any changes to current animal cruelty laws that adversely impact the normally accepted practices of handling livestock.
Support the rights of producers to protect their livestock from vultures without reprisal from state or regulatory agencies.
On the national front, delegates adopted a number of recommendations from TFB's Farm Bill Advisory Committee, which favors continuation of the 2002 Farm Bill until its expiration and retention of its structure in the 2007 Farm Bill. In other Farm Bill related policy, delegates voted:
To oppose any reduction in farm program spending in the next budget year and in the next farm bill.
To support funding for rehabilitation and maintenance for flood prevention sites through low interest loans and grants.
To support continuation of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP).
To recommend that Farm Service Agency offices not combine common ownership from farm serial numbers when separate numbers already exist until approved by the owner.
To eliminate loan rate differentials from U.S. cotton.
For a crop insurance program that has an annual rate review by crop, county and state.
That crops adjusted at or below 15 percent of their actual production history (APH) be considered a zero level of production for federal crop insurance purposes.
Regarding other national issues, delegates supported the reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2005, and encouraged the Senate to follow the House lead.
In other national action, delegates voted to:
Support implementation of required identification and trace-back regulations on all beef and live animals imported into the United States prior to such mandatory requirements placed on producers in the United States.
Oppose foreign ownership of the farm credit system.
Allow additional tax credits for both fuel and fertilizer to offset fuel and fertilizer price increases.
Support immigration law that would control illegal immigration and contain provisions for temporary work and work permit work visas. In addition, the resolution said that illegal aliens should be deported immediately.
At the convention's conclusion, the TFB board of directors reelected Lloyd Arthur of Ralls as vice president and elected Albert Thompson of Martinsville as secretary-treasurer.
Three new state directors will replace retiring directors completing the maximum three, two-year terms. Billy Bob Brown, a grain producer from Carson County, replaces Ralph Detten in District 1. Larry Pratt, a cattle and wheat producer from Young County, replaces Steve Cochran from District 3; and, in District 11, Tom Paben, a corn and cattle producer from Waller County, replaces Bob Reed.
Reelected to two-year terms on the state board were Albert Thompson, District 9; Lewis Lehman, District 7; and Don Smith, District 5.