February 3, 2006
TFB voice heard at
By Mike Barnett
Reflecting and digesting what happened in the policy session at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting the first part of January, Texas Farm Bureau Research & Policy Development Director Glen Jones feels the Texas delegation gave the national organization good tools to work with as it pursues issues important to agriculture.
High on Jones' list was retaining language in policy concerning the Plant Variety Protection Act. The AFBF Resolutions Committee had recommended deleting language that said a farmer could save his own GMO seed by paying a minimal technology fee on saved seed. He said TFB Vice President Lloyd Arthur's argument was the deciding factor in getting the language reinstated.
"What we have here is a problem of production cost," TFB Vice President and cotton producer Lloyd Arthur said on the convention floor, noting the increasing costs of tech fees on the next generation of GMO seed. "Producers would like the ability to catch seed and pay a small tech fee. We need a level playing field with other countries with a lower tech fee."
Another area where Texas Farm Bureau found success was crop insurance, where the Texas delegation was responsible for two new, major policy provisions.
One provision, dealing with farming, said that if the cost of harvest is above the value of the crop, then the farmer should be able to zero the crop out and not have to harvest it for crop insurance purposes.
"Currently, if there's a value out there, most of the time the farmer can't zero it out," Jones said. "They have to go ahead and harvest it, and the cost of harvesting is more than the value of the crop. Then the farmer has to take that value away from the indemnity that they pay you for the loss."
The other provision dealt with livestock insurance, a relatively new program.
"Currently, the government pays 13 percent of the premium the producers pay. We were able to have that percentage increased in new language," he said.
Other Texas-inspired successes in new policy adopted at the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting included the following:
Support for immigration laws that control illegal immigration and contain provisions for temporary work visas, with language that said illegal aliens should be deported immediately.
Adequate federal funds be made available for USDA inspectors at horse slaughter plants. (Texas has two of the three horse slaughter plants in the nation.)
Policy that discourages the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing air quality standards and implementing a new National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulate matter until scientists determine the health and economic consequences of their actions.
In other action, delegates voted to support the "25 by 25" vision stating that agriculture, by the year 2025, will produce 25 percent of the nation's energy supply while continuing to produce abundant, safe and affordable food and fiber. They also urged Congress and the administration to enact policies to increase the domestic fuel supply by increasing refining capacity and authorizing development of energy resources in the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. On animal identification, the delegates voted to support a mandatory animal ID program.
"The delegates believe that the animal ID system will eventually have to be mandatory to be successful, help protect animal health and aid the quick traceback of potentially infected animals in the event of a disease outbreak," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "The system is vital to the livestock industry and for consumer confidence."