AFBF Proceeding on Multiple Fronts to Move Agriculture Forward, Stallman SaysTue, 14 Jan 2014 16:31:48 CST
Bob Stallman, who was today elected to another two-year term as president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, addressed his organization at their annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. He spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays after his presentation and offered more details on several issues of importance to the agricultural community. (You can hear the full interview by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)
One of his major points was that every American needs to hold his or her member of Congress accountable for their actions-or the lack thereof-on Capitol Hill. He said that citizens need to thank their representatives when they do their jobs and get rid of them when they don't. He said that advice applies across the board, not just to AFBF members.
"The point I was trying to make was don't complain about what Congress is doing or, in most cases, not doing unless you're willing to hold your member of Congress accountable. And if they're not doing what you want them to do, don't complain about that to the AFBF, go out and get involved in the election process and find someone to represent you who will do a better job."
Stallman ran through a list of chores he has for Congress in the coming year. Topping that list is passage of the farm bill. He said the lengthy process that has consumed almost two years has been a source of frustration to his membership.
"This is becoming the never-ending farm bill, but I think we're getting close. I really feel that way. We're getting down to some or a single issue. When a conference committee gets down to that point, those are the last things that need to be decided, it generally means they are ready to move forward. So, I'm hoping that by the end of January we do have a farm bill. We are getting close to planting season, particularly down here in Texas and the southern part of the country and we need to know what the rules are going to be."
Stallman said that another issue his membership is very aware of is the aggressiveness of Obama administration regulatory agencies-especially the EPA--in regard to agricultural producers.
"We have a new rule, it seems like, coming out on a regular basis that we think in many cases tries to extend the scope of authority of existing law by the EPA further than where we think they should be allowed to go."
He said his organization tries to work within the process to comment on proposed rules, but is not averse to taking the matter to court when they believe regulatory agencies have exceeded their authority.
Another area of concern to his membership, Stallman said, is that the public is exposed to a lot of negative media regarding agriculture. He said the AFBF has been working with other agricultural groups in an effort to stem this tide.
"That was the reason the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance was created. It was for all of us in agriculture groups to pool their resources and figure the answer to that question out. We have done some extensive research in interaction with consumers. We think we know what consumers want. They have legitimate questions. They don't know anything about agriculture, about how we raise and grow the food that they eat, but they want to know more. So, how do you get that information to them? The most effective way is creating a platform where consumers can engage directly with the farmer or rancher because, basically, they still trust farmers and ranchers."
Stallman said forging one-on-one relationships between consumers and producers using social media is proving very effective. When consumers learn first-hand about particular farming practices, why they are employed and that they are safe, they have a tendency to discount negative information pushed by activist groups.
"I've seen a lot of anecdotal indications that we're making improvements there and even when we look at it in a broader context and test some of the things that we're doing and test some of the words and the attitudes being expressed, I think we're making progress. But, it's going to be a constant challenge. We're going to have to stay in there and keep doing it."
Stallman said his dream for the future of the Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is that consumers would come to see it as the first place to go for accurate, objective information on how their food is produced.
As far as the future of the AFBF is concerned, Stallman said they are working to make the organization more effective in serving its members and the public. He said there are many changes contemplated in the organization's internal structure to achieve those goals and there are external changes as well. He said the recent purchase of some farm shows and farm publications by AFBF are examples of how the organization is trying to become more intimately intertwined with the day-to-day operations of agricultural producers.
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