Standing at podium for his final major opening address to the American Farm Bureau Federation annual event, being held in Orlando, Fla., this week, Bob Stallman offered some key advice. First, farmers need to adopt technology, and second, they need to stand up for their rights.
Stallman notes that in 2015 "we saw one of the worst examples of over-regulation, with EPA's and the Corps of Engineers Waters of the U.S. rule. When rainwater running across a farm field is all it takes to allow federal agencies to tell you that you cannot use your land; that is government regulation run amok."
He notes that the WOTUS rule is but one example during a year of fighting for farmers' rights on a number of fronts, including the Chesapeake Bay where EPA has what Stallman notes is called a "blueprint" for land in a 64,000 square mile area. "Think about it! EPA claims it can micromanage land use across large swaths of the countryside," he told the crowd. "EPA is starting with the Chesapeake Bay watershed - but unless the Supreme Court steps in, this latest EPA power grab will be coming soon to watersheds all across the country."
Related: Four seek to lead Farm Bureau
This is long been Stallman's warning call, that the threat of government regulation may be stronger than the market and weather forces farmers face every season. And in his 16-year tenure, he has worked to get that message to key decision makers that farmers can make changes and manage key concerns and issues on their own.
Stallman points to the potential of new technologies from unmanned aircraft to data mining, from biotechnology to robotics. "These advances stand to make farming and ranching more productive, less costly, less labor-dependent and even better for the environment," he says. "and who better to embrace the new than farmers, who have been adapting to change since the beginning of agriculture."
He notes that the "GMO naysayers" who claim to speak for the average consumer but "shop only at Whole Foods" will eventually come around and he adds that "our world depends on it."
As he wrapped up his remarks, Stallman notes that he has traveled across the U.S. as president of the organization and he says he has come to know a few things for certain:
* Farm Bureau is a great organization.
* Agriculture is a great industry.
* And the farmers and ranchers of this country are the greatest people in the world.
And he closed with this: "Thank you for giving me the honor and privilege of serving as your president. God bless you all. It has been a fantastic 16 years. Keep the Farm Bureau fire burning!"