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Rural Blog: Farm Bureau sets policy goals; wants trade results, hemp specifics, synthetic meat studies


Delegates from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest general agriculture organization, ratified the final version of its policy goals for 2020 during its annual convention last week in Austin, Texas. The delegates also re-elected President Zippy Duvall and Vice President Scott VanderWal for their third terms, according to the AFBF website.

Bailout money for farmers hurt by the trade war continues to be a top Farm Bureau priority.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said at the convention that a third tranche of Market Facilitation Program payments for 2019 crops would come soon, but said there will be no trade relief for 2020.

“Still, Farm Bureau members voted to keep language in the policy book supportive of MFP payments even with President Donald Trump touting trade wins in China and the congressional approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” Chris Clayton notes for DTN/The Progressive Farmer.

“Our members are basically saying, ‘Show us results,'” VanderWal told Clayton. Essentially, he said, farmers are waiting for proof that the trade agreement with China will bear fruit, and noted that “no products have moved, implementation hasn’t happened yet, and it’s kind of a ‘prove it to me’ thing.”

The Farm Bureau also wants the Agriculture Department to change the way it determines the pricing structure of fluid milk in the Federal Milk Marketing Order, a system meant to help dairy farmers by setting minimum prices. Dairy farmers have been under increasing financial stress in recent years, and changing the pricing structure would make it more fair, VanderWal told Clayton.

Hemp was another big issue. Farm Bureau members want hemp to be allowed to have up to 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in cannabis that gives people high. Hemp and marijuana are identical except for THC content; under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is limited to 0.3% THC and must be destroyed at 0.5% THC. Delegates also want to eliminate THC testing for hemp grown for non-consumption purposes, such as grain, fiber, seed, oil or ethanol, Clayton reports.

Farm Bureau delegates also support the “right to repair” legislation so farmers can fix equipment less expensively. And they want USDA to permanently move the haying, grazing and chopping date for prevented-planting acres from Nov. 1 to an earlier date. “Following the 2019 crop year that had roughly 20 million prevented-planting acres, farmers had complained that Nov. 1 would be too late to get any value out of haying or grazing a cover crop, so USDA moved the dates to early September last year,” Clayton reports.

Farm Bureau also proposed mandatory study, testing and monitoring of synthetic meat analogues, and want to make sure such products don’t get any regulatory or administrative edge over naturally grown meat, dairy and other such products. Delegates also support voluntary compliance with Country of Origin Labeling; mandatory compliance would put the U.S. in violation of the new treaty with Canada and Mexico, Clayton reports.

Finally, Clayton notes, delegates also voted to repeal USDA “swampbuster” rules, “which effectively means eliminating wetland delineations on farms that restrict farm-program payments. Farm Bureau wants USDA to better specify wetland designations and streamline the appeals process for producers.” The move will likely upset conservationists, but the delegates said farmers are increasingly frustrated with conservation compliance practices within the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.


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