Farmer and rancher delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation's 81st annual meeting have elected new leaders and approved key resolutions related to the farm economy and consolidation in the agricultural industry.
Delegates elected Texas rice farmer Bob Stallman, a third-generation farmer, from Colorado County, as the organization's 11th president. Michigan dairy farmer Jack Laurie was elected the organization's new vice president. Stallman succeeds Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer who had served as AFBF president for 14 years. Laurie succeeds Florida farmer Carl Loop, who had served in that capacity for five years.
On policy matters, delegates voted to back "countercyclical" farm income support payments and called for the creation of a "high-level" position within the Department of Justice to enforce antitrust laws in agriculture.
Farm Bureau delegates from across the nation called for the implementation of countercyclical income support to supplement farm program payments, based on revenue history that would provide farmers formal income support during tough economic times, without jeopardizing the concepts of the current farm law or returning to supply management programs. They continued to call for a "complete re-examination" of the current farm law to ensure adequate financial support is available for all farmers.
The delegates said they would support continued "market loss assistance payments for all commodities, including livestock" until Congress approves fast track trade negotiation authority for the President and agricultural trade improves. Delegates also expressed support for "investigating a national loan deficiency rate," improving the crop insurance program and developing a revenue insurance plan for livestock producers.
Delegates said they would oppose " a return to supply management programs, including mandatory acreage reduction," re-establishment of a Farmer-Owned Reserve and lifting the cap on crop marketing loans.
On the issue of agricultural mergers, the delegates said, "Consolidation and the subsequent concentration within the U.S. agricultural sector is having adverse economic impacts on U.S. family farmers." They called on Congress to review statues and develop legislation to strengthen antitrust enforcement and asked for the creation of a high-level Department of Justice official to focus on agricultural mergers and acquisitions.
By a 242 to 115 vote, delegates struck language that would have called for a moratorium on agribusiness mergers, should Congress fail to act. While delegates opposed a prohibition on packer ownership of livestock they said the Department of Justice must "ensure that proposed cooperative and vertical integration arrangements "continue to provide independent producers access to markets.
On other action, delegates voted to:
--Urge Congress to review and "ensure a workable and reasonable" implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act.
--Support Option 1A price differentials for Class I milk and regional dairy compacts.
--Ask the Department of Agriculture to establish a method to monitor and report trends in farm-to-consumer price spreads for farm commodities.
--Support inclusion of ethanol in federal reformulated gasoline rules and biodiesel in Department of Energy alternative and renewable fuels programs.
--Support tax incentives for the sale of property to beginning farmers.
--Seek reports on the impact to American farmers before the U.S. agrees to include any new nation in the World Trade Organization, and oppose attempts by competing nations to disguise protectionist trade policies as support for the "multifunctional characteristics of agriculture."
--Recommend that all imported produce, meats and seafood be labeled at the retail level as to country of origin.
--Support aggressive and effective implementation of mandatory livestock price reporting.
--Urge state and national governments to develop standards and strategies for biotechnology research, development and consumer education.
In addition to policy action, the following farmers were elected to the AFBF board of directors. From the Midwest region: Al Chistopherson, Minnesota; Charles Kruse, Missouri; Howard Poulson, Wisconsin; Ron Warfield, Illinois; Ed Weiderstein, Iowa; and Richard Kjerstad, South Dakota.
From the Southern region: Carl Loop Jr., Florida; Steve Kouplen, Oklahoma; Bruce Hiatt, Virginia; Larry Wooten, North Carolina; Sam Moore, Kentucky; David Waide, Mississippi; David Hillman, Arkansas; David Winkles, South Carolina; and Donald Patman, Texas.
Guy Donaldson of Pennsylvania and John Lincoln of New York were elected to the board from the Northeast region. Roger Bill Mitchell of Colorado and Frank Priestly of Idaho were elected to the board from the Western region.
Elected to the AFB Women's Committee were Joyce Haak, South Dakota; Terry Gilbert, Kentucky; Leona Dell, Maryland; Alyce Block, Connecticut; and Margene Harris, New Mexico.
Ken Middleton, a cotton, soybean and corn producer, from Greenville, MS, was elected chairman of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.