American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) delegates made some clear policy decisions relative to the group’s positions relative to the work on the next farm bill. Delegates at their annual meeting had an active voting session which included a shift in the direction for future US farm programs and rejection of some current items like direct payments.
The group’s delegates overwhelmingly voted down an amendment that would have backed continuing the direct payments made to producers regardless of what they plant or prices. The proposal to continue direct payments was not a part of the group’s plans formulated before the convention.
Delegates did approve pursuit of a revenue-based program like the Systemic Risk Reduction Program (SRRP) the group has proposed, but they rejected keeping that name as the process moves forward. "Maybe we’ll find something different," said AFBF President Bob Stallman relative to the program’s name.
The group’s members also backed keeping the current commodity loan program, but with higher loan rates.
The delegates also called for spending restraint, but Stallman noted, "We did not say the overall reduction would not have tax increases, but we encouraged spending restraint."
Another effort that failed came from egg producers, as they called for the AFBF to back the concept that producers would drive the policies that govern their industry. United Egg Producers has created a stir in ag circles for its work with the Humane Society of the United States relative to production practices. "There was a move to get us to change our policy to either a position of support for the agreement or in a position of not opposing it," according to Stallman, noting the delegates made it clear they did not back the agenda of the HSUS relative to animal production in this country.
Overall, Stallman assessed the delegate session as "good" and noted "we accomplished a lot of things in the time allotted. As for the farm bill, we kept a forward-looking policy in place and a move to support direct payments was soundly rejected. We are well positioned to move forward with the 2012 farm bill."
As for that farm bill process, Stallman said the group will likely find those that back their stance. "Anybody who wants good policy," Stallman said, "we are going to try to recruit allies. There’s not a lot of commitment to anything yet and I view the playing field as wide open."
Regarding the outlook for the next US farm bill, Stallman would not commit on whether the bill will be approved in 2012 or if the current version would be extended. "I’ve probably been asked that a dozen times, and it’s hard to predict in an election year, unless both sides see it in their best interests to get a farm bill passed. The alternative is an extension…and there are a host of issues. Ask me in three or four months, I’ll have a better idea on that then."
COMMENTS: The vote against keeping direct payments reflects a view held by a growing number of state farm bureaus. The rejection of the name for the revenue-based program was not all that surprising and it sets in place yet another group backing the revenue-based approach that is growing in support. The group’s decision to back keeping commodity loans is also of note, especially with higher loan rates.