Farm Bureau elects leadership and adopts new policy positions
The looming "fiscal cliff" and estate tax reform were among the issues debated at the 98th Missouri Farm Bureau annual meeting Dec. 2 to 4 at the Lake of the Ozarks. More than 1,300 farmers and ranchers attended the meeting where voting delegates, representing members, adopted a wide range of policy positions for 2013, re-elected the president and four board members, and elected a new member to the Board of Directors.
Blake Hurst, a row and specialty crop farmer from Atchison County, was re-elected for a second term as MFB president. Vernon Hart from Buchanan County, Chris Chinn from Shelby County and Harry Thompson from Cole County were re-elected to the board for District 1, District 2 and District 3, respectively, while Teribeth Spargo from Ripley County was re-elected as the South Board Member At-Large.
New District 4 board member Brent Hampy from Pettis County was elected to the seat vacated by retiring board member Dwayne Schad for a two-year term. Andy Clay from Moniteau County has been appointed the new Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee Chairman/Board Advisory Member for a one-year term.
Of the issues discussed by the delegation, the farm bill, the fiscal cliff and estate tax reform were at the forefront.
"Even though the 2008 farm bill lapsed on Sept. 30, Congress has failed to act. As time winds down in the lame duck session, we still wait for Congress to fulfill its responsibilities," said MFB President Blake Hurst in his annual address. "Farmers need to plan, farmers need help with drought relief and farmers need a safety net; these are all part of both the farm bill passed by the Senate and the version passed by the House Agriculture committee."
The estate tax hits particularly close to home for farmers and ranchers, Hurst said. If Congress does not end or reform estate taxes before the end of the month, they will revert to a 55 percent top tax rate and a $1 million exemption. The huge tax could force farmers and ranchers already dealing with a family loss to make crippling decisions on which assets can be sold to meet the tax burden, or lose the family farm.
"As Congress and the president negotiate our fiscal future, they must not forget the frightening prospect facing family farming if estate taxes are not ended or reformed," Hurst said.
The following is a summary of other issues delegates voted to focus on in 2013:
--Immediate passage of a responsible federal farm bill.
--Continue opposition to the Humane Society of the United States and other animal activist groups who want more legislation or rules restricting agricultural production.
--Increase flexibility for schools participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, including eliminating mandatory calorie limits and limits on lean meat protein and dairy.
--Enact legislation re-establishing the Career and Technical Education Board and authorizing the board to administer career and technical education programs.
--Allow state and local governments to collect sales tax on internet sales by out-of-state sellers.
--Increase transparency in the state ballot initiative process by requiring a public hearing or independent review of proposed ballot initiatives by the Joint Committee on Legislative Research prior to final approval of ballot language by the Secretary of State.
--Authorize counties to enact a temporary burn ban with an exemption for agricultural operations using best management practices during a declared drought disaster and impose penalties for violation.
--Congress should retain control of the national debt and only increase the debt ceiling in the event of a national emergency and with the approval of a two-thirds vote in both chambers.