In his annual keynote address Sunday, American Farm Bureau president Bob Stallman issued a stern warning to critics that farmers and ranchers will no longer tolerate opponents' efforts to change the landscape of American agriculture. "To those who expect to just roll over America's farm and ranch families my one message is this: The circumstances have changed."
He cited one example. "The Ohio Farm Bureau embraced this attitude by taking the fight to the enemies of modern animal agriculture. Ohio's Ballot Issue 2 was a big win and one we must duplicate far and wide."
Calling on Farm Bureau members to rally as one during these challenging times, Stallman said, "There are already too many external forces tugging at agriculture's seams without farmers and ranchers being divided amongst themselves. We must not allow the activists and self-appointed and self-promoting food experts to drive a wedge between us."
He went on to say, "a line must be drawn between our polite and respectful engagement with consumers and the way we aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule. The time has come to face our opponents with a new attitude. The days of their elitist power grabs are over."
Another issue of huge concern to Farm Bureau is climate change legislation. "At the very time we need to increase our food production, climate change legislation threatens to slash our ability to do so. The exact level of land that will shift to trees will depend on the price of carbon – a number nobody knows at this point – but USDA suggests we could easily be talking about 59 million acres."
Stallman noted in today's terms that means eliminating about 130,000 farms and ranches that grow food and crops. "The United States would be less able to provide the world a viable hunger safety net. Food prices here at home would shoot up. The result? Less food security and our climate would not improve, not even by one degree. That is not the kind of American agriculture I want to leave behind for future generations."
Stallman also told delegates, "Our message to Congress about cap and trade is clear – Don't CAP Our Future." Farm caps with that message were handed out at the meeting.
At a news conference, one reporter observed that it's traditional for a member of the current administration, usually the secretary of agriculture, to address the delegates and no one from the administration is on the program. Stallman admitted AFBF traditionally invites the U.S. secretary of agriculture. "But," he said, "Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called me during the holidays and expressed regret at not being able to attend the meeting. The secretary told me he was ordered by the president to go to Afghanistan and assist with USDA efforts there to help develop Afghani agriculture."
When asked his views on the current administration's performance, Stallman said "the biggest problem is the propensity to regulate – particularly EPA. There is a consistent drum beat of more regulation that is not necessarily good for agriculture."