Delegates set Farm Bureau policy for 2012
By Steve Adler
Important issues facing California farmers and ranchers—including water development, renewable fuels, government finances and over-regulation—were the focus of attention for delegates to the California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting last week in Sparks, Nev.
The 128 delegates from county Farm Bureaus around the state establish policy for CFBF to follow in the coming year as the organization communicates with elected officials and government regulators.
"Each year, our delegates debate issues that affect our agricultural operations—some of which are emerging and others that we continue to confront—with the aim of establishing positions that direct our organization," CFBF President Paul Wenger said. "We also re-affirm existing policies that become the roadmap for our annual work plan. It was a very successful meeting and we enter 2012 with a clear plan in place."
CFBF delegates voted to oppose all government intervention in production of corn-based ethanol. In adopting this policy, the delegates reasoned that manufacturing and blending subsidies are no longer needed and create a heavy burden on California livestock and poultry producers, who must pay high grain prices as a result of ethanol policies.
The California position will be carried to the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting next month in Honolulu.
Delegates expressed great concern about a federal proposal to close several thousand U.S. post offices, primarily in rural areas, as a cost-saving measure. They voted to refer the issue to CFBF and AFBF staff, to become actively involved in the continuation of essential rural postal services.
The Farm Bureau delegates adopted new policy language addressing environmental program fees and treatment of penalties charged for violation of environmental laws. The thrust of the new language is that any penalties assessed to landowners for violations should be used to mitigate the violation rather than to fund the agency bringing the charge.
A related policy states that environmental program fees should be based strictly on the direct cost of processing the program enrollment application or renewal.
Delegates adopted a policy that addresses what the delegates see as a flaw in a national dairy proposal currently before Congress, which they say discriminates against California and other Western states on the feed-cost formula. Because California is a grain-deficit state, dairy farmers pay more for corn, due to added shipping costs.
While the delegates agreed that under normal situations California dairy farmers can accept cost differences as part of free-market decisions, they said that in this case, Congress and the dairy sector in other parts of the U.S. are attempting to establish an emergency risk-management program that fails to take into account the added transportation costs.
"Our contention is that if the national dairy sector truly wants a safety-net program to work across the country, California dairies should not be held to a one-size-fits-all treatment of production costs," CFBF Policy Development Manager Jack King said.
There was spirited discussion among delegates regarding Farm Bureau efforts to roll back and sunset regulations affecting farmers and ranchers, including calls for a state moratorium on any new rules for business, streamlining regulations and reversing damaging rules. In a message to the CFBF Board of Directors, the delegates declared: "Agriculture and other businesses need incentives and a positive economic environment if we are to pull our state out of the current depression."
In other action, the delegates called for:
- Timely review of registration applications for conventional, reduced-risk pesticides by the Environmental Protection Agency, to aid beekeepers.
- Placing a high organizational priority on maintaining and improving existing water storage and conveyance infrastructure.
- Protection of agriculture's interest if adaptive plans are developed to deal with climate change.
- Added incentives for general-practice doctors to serve in rural areas.
(Steve Adler is associate editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at email@example.com.)
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.