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AFBF: Farmers need policies that promote economic growth

As the new Congress and the Obama administration prepare to take up proposals to address the current economic recession and climate change concerns, they must enact policies on taxes and the environment that promote economic growth, said delegates at the 90th American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting.

"Where Congress and the administration must propose and enact new laws and regulations to deal with our nation's challenges, Farm Bureau will work to ensure those new measures do not threaten farmers' and ranchers' profitability," said AFBF President Bob Stallman, "but, rather, capitalize on opportunities to maintain a strong agricultural economy and bolster rural America."

As Congress is expected this year to revisit the issue of climate change, the delegates have reaffirmed their opposition to caps on greenhouse gas emissions that would drive up the cost of fuel, fertilizer and other inputs needed to produce farm commodities.

Continuing to support America's transition to energy independence through the production of biofuels, the delegates felt, was the right direction. They approved a policy supporting an increase in the ethanol-to-gasoline blend rate to more than the current 10 percent.

AFBF delegates also approved policies aimed at bolstering the rural economy. For example, the Obama-backed economic stimulus proposal should fund improvements to the nation's infrastructure, including expanding broadband Internet access in rural areas and funding the Water Resources Development Act, which authorized construction of new locks and dams on the inland waterways.

The delegates indicated that federal lawmakers and the new administration also should complete an unfinished immigration bill left over from 2008. They expressed support for immigration reform that provides a more efficient temporary worker program for agriculture. They voted to support improved training for employers to help them understand and better use the current H-2A seasonal agricultural worker program, and better information delivery for new users of the program.

Permanent repeal of the estate tax, which impedes farm families' ability to keep farms in the family, was another issue on which the delegates indicated renewed support.

The delegates also approved a resolution stating that the concept of "sustainable agriculture" should be flexible and recognize the benefits of accepted agricultural practices. They supported scientific research and education that encourages all participants in the agricultural industry to produce, process and distribute safe food and feed.

"Our nation faces serious challenges and our leaders must deal with those," said Stallman. "But in doing so, they also have opportunities to put policies in place--on issues such as energy, immigration, taxes and infrastructure--to make us stronger in the long run."

Citing anti-livestock campaigns such as last year's Proposition 2 in California, the delegates urged the AFBF board of directors to continue the Ag Challenges Initiative, a program that helps producers tell their story of responsible care for animals.

At this AFBF annual meeting, 369 voting delegates representing every state and agricultural commodity deliberated on policies affecting farmers' and ranchers' productivity and profitability. The policy approved at the annual meeting will guide the national farm organization's legislative and regulatory efforts throughout 2009.

Farm Bureau elects grassroots leaders

In addition, several state Farm Bureau presidents were newly elected to the AFBF board of directors: Wayne Wood of Michigan in the Midwest region, Ed Jestice Jr., of Delaware in the Northeast region, Mark Haney of Kentucky and Randy Veach of Arkansas in the Southern region, and Perry Livingston of Wyoming in the Western region.

Re-elected to the board were:

Midwest region--Craig Lang, Iowa; Keith Olsen, Nebraska; and Don Villwock, Indiana.

Northeast region--Alex Dowse, Massachusetts, and Carl Shaffer, Pennsylvania.

Southern region--Ronnie Anderson, Louisiana; Kenneth Dierschke, Texas; Zippy Duvall, Georgia; Mike Spradling, Oklahoma; Lacy Upchurch, Tennessee; and Larry Wooten, North Carolina.

Western region--Kevin Rogers, Arizona, and Michael White, New Mexico.

Mathew Meals of Newville, Pa., was elected the new chairman of the AFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, which also makes him a member of the AFBF board of directors during his one-year term. The YF&R program helps young men and women aged 18 to 35 learn more about agriculture, network with other farmers and become future leaders in agriculture and Farm Bureau.

Terry Gilbert of Kentucky was re-elected chair of the AFB Women's Leadership Committee for another two-year term. She also serves on the AFBF board of directors. Sherry Saylor of Arizona was re-elected as the committee's vice-chair for two more years.

Re-elected to the Women's Leadership Committee board of directors were Helen Norris of Kansas, for the Midwest region; Ethel Nash of West Virginia, for the Northeast region; Ginny Paarlberg of Florida, for the Southern region; and Angela Ryden of Colorado, for the Western region. The Women's Leadership Committee provides opportunities for women to be involved in all aspects of Farm Bureau, develop leadership skills and put those skills into action on behalf of agriculture.

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