October 6, 2006
The outcome of world trade talks must be known before beginning a new farm bill, the head of the country's largest farm organization told members of Congress.
Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said it is critical that a World Trade Organization agreement is finalized before changing farm policy.
"This approach provides U.S. trade representatives the strongest negotiating leverage," said Stallman. "If we reduce our domestic supports in an upcoming farm bill debate, we have less leverage to use to convince other countries to reduce their tariffs and export subsidies. Our strongest negotiating leverage is to maintain our current programs until we agree to a WTO round that is beneficial for agriculture."
Foreign tariffs average 62 percent on U.S. agricultural exportsmore than five times higher than the average U.S. imposed agriculture tariff of 12 percent.
Additionally, the European Union uses 87 percent of the world's export subsidies, which severely disadvantages U.S. exports. The U.S. uses only 3 percent and the rest of the world uses the remaining 10 percent.
"Farmers and ranchers are willing to lower farm program payments via WTO negotiations ifand only ifthey can secure increased opportunities to sell their products overseas," Stallman said. "However, we are not willing to unilaterally disarm."
Beyond the international trade implications and the loss of negotiating leverage, there are other reasons to extend this farm bill.
"The 2002 farm bill was carefully constructed to provide support for commodity, conservation, nutrition and export promotion programs. Congress struck a balance in funding each of those programs and it works," Stallman said.
He also noted that the farm bill provides an adequate safety net to farmers and ranchers when commodity prices are low, and it continues to address the goal of producing a safe, abundant, domestic food supply.
Stallman encouraged members to take into account production expenses, such as fuel and fertilizer, which are expected to be much higher for the upcoming farm bill period. "With a significantly higher cost structure, and at a time when farmers are making investments to help secure our nation's energy future, changing the farm bill would be detrimental," he said.
"There is no question the existing farm bill is popular with farmers and ranchers throughout the country," Stallman said. "Continued maintenance of its structure and funding is a high priority for Farm Bureau."
Renewable energy resources in Texas will take center stage at the Bioenergy Texas Conference planned Oct. 24-26 in Lubbock.
The conference has been dubbed the "convergence of agriculture and energy"a means to better position the Lone Star State as not just an oil and gas state, but an energy state as well, said conference director Lee Ann Woods.
"This is a proactive and economic development-driven approach that will help secure investment and create jobs around the state," Woods said. "Today we're losing those dollars and jobs to Iowa, Minnesota, Florida and others."
Several state governmental agencies as well as statewide organizations will be involved with the upcoming conference, including Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Department of Agriculture, State Energy Conservation Office and the General Land Office.
The conference will include technical tours, a workforce workshop, producers summit and venture forum, all programs designed to provide relevant information to communities, producers and financiers.
For more information on the upcoming conference or to learn more about the BioEnergy Texas Coalition, visit the organization's website at www.bioenergytexas.org.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced Sept. 25 that USDA will request proposals from U.S. land-grant institutions to strengthen agricultural extension and training at agricultural universities in Iraq.
USDA targeted the investment in Iraq's agricultural programs at $7.8 million in Extension funds. The agency also pledged to provide staff as needed in Iraq and will develop agricultural credit training there.
"Because much of Iraq's population relies on agriculture for its livelihood, the country's stability partially depends upon the agricultural sector's performance," Johanns said, after a Washington meeting with Iraqi Trade Minister Abd al-Falah Al-Sudani. "A strong extension system that responds to the needs of farmers, processors, marketers and others in agriculture is a key element of recovery."
The Iraq Agricultural Extension Revitalization Project will provide extension training programs for Iraqi nationals. The training is designed to enhance agricultural management, production and marketing-related activities for small and medium-sized production enterprises. The effort was actually launched on Aug. 1, when Johanns and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Salamm Zukam Ali Al-Zawba'i signed a joint statement of intent in Baghdad.
This initiative builds on other U.S. efforts over the past three years to help Iraq rebuild its agriculture sector. These efforts include private sector development, livestock and crop improvement, market development and water management.
"Without the ability to recapture value for horses no longer viable for their intended use, some horse owners will neglect or abandon the animals. The result could be a slow, painful end for thousands of horses each year."
Statement by Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke criticizing the U.S. House of Representative's 263-146 vote in early September to ban the slaughter of horses for meat.