All Things Considered, Ag Sector in Good Shape

Farmers are optimistic, but experiencing anxiety, according to American Farm Bureau president.

Considering the condition of the rest of the U.S. economy, the American ag sector is in pretty good shape, Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation president, told reporters during a press conference Sunday. "By most accounts, agriculture's balance sheet was solid this past year. In fact, debt-to-asset ratios were in the best shape since 1960, when ag financial measures were first tracked," noted Stallman.

Nevertheless, with the recent volatility in prices, "farmers are concerned how 2009 will play out," continued Stallman. "We'll just have to see what happens."

Regarding the nomination of former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for U.S. secretary of agriculture, Stallman said he is pleased with the selection of Vilsack as the nominee. "He's from a large ag state, understands agriculture and supports many of the issues we do. We expect a swift confirmation."

In his speech to the more than 5,300 registered Farm Bureau members earlier in the day, Stallman addressed climate change. "We know that carbon emissions have been increasing. But there is far less scientific certainty about exactly what impact they have on our climate today – or will have in 50 years."

When asked to expand on that, Stallman said "there is too much uncertainty to enact laws at this time that would put a heavy load on our producers, particularly when other countries, such as China, are not doing anything. We are going to watch this legislation. If, at the end of the day, it puts a huge burden on farmers and ranchers without benefit, we'll oppose it."

On other issues, Stallman reiterated Farm Bureau policy. "We still support the Renewable Fuels Standard. In fact, we'd support expanding it," said Stallman who was first elected AFBF president in 2000. "We are going to reach a saturation point with 10% blend," he added.

Farm Bureau is not unilaterally opposed to Cap and Trade legislation, said Stallman. "But, we are opposed to Cap and Trade legislation that would cost more for farmers."

"Right now we are neutral on a National Animal Identification System," American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman told reporters at a press conference Sunday. "The delegates may decide we should take a position. There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue."

Another key issue is immigration, according to Stallman. "Too many of our current workers are unfortunately caught in immigration system that is broken. And too often, farmers face the consequences. I'm a little more optimistic with the new administration and the new Congress that we will be able to address immigration reform. But, I'm not sure how that will effect agriculture," said Stallman.

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