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Ag groups are already offering Obama advice

Agriculture.com Staff 11/06/2008 @ 6:42am

Farm groups extended offers of support to president-elect Obama, Wednesday. And they added their own list economic challenges facing rural America.

"Probably we’re all relieved that the election is over," National Farmers Union president Tom Buis told reporters in a telephone press conference.

Buis said agriculture faces many problems, including a world-wide recession that is hurting commodity prices, the need for regulatory reform that includes greater regulation of speculators in commodity futures markets, and more development of biofuels and green energy sources that will bring economic development to farms and rural areas.

"We're going to have a president who does want to work with rural America on these issues," he said.

Because Obama supported the farm bill passed last year, Buis said he believes the USDA will implement the new law in a way that reflects the intent of Congress. Congress has already clashed with the USDA over several provisions of the new law, including labeling rules for mandatory country of origin labeling, setting price levels for the new average crop revenue election (ACRE) program and a ban on payments for fewer than 10 acres of commodity crops.

Buis said that he doesn't think all of the rules for new farm bill programs will be finished before the end of this year.

He said that he also expects Congress to have to tackle the mounting federal deficit by making cuts to federal programs. And, even though the new farm bill cuts agricultural spending from levels authorized in the 2002 farm bill, more cuts are possible, he said. "I don't think agriculture is going to be exempt."

Buis, whose name has been showing up on speculative lists of potential Secretaries of Agriculture, said he hasn't been contacted by Obama’s staff and "this is not something I'm seeking. I'm happy where I am. I think I have the best job in town, representing family farmers and rural interests.

Buis said he's calling on other farm groups to organize an agricultural summit to look at ways to counter falling farm income. His own organization favors pegging farm income subsidies to farmers' variable production costs. Those costs aren’t falling as much as commodity prices. "You name the commodity that we produce, and they're all headed in the wrong direction," he said.

Farm Bureau's approach to farm policy may differ from Farmers Union's but its own list of issues for an Obama administration to address is similar.

After congratulating Obama and the new Congress on "a decisive and historic election," Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said in a statement, "Farmers and ranchers, like all Americans, have a list of issues that they expect the administration and Congress will address. The issues include the economy, energy, immigration, trade, implementation of the farm bill and many others. We know there are many points of view on these issues, but we also know that our elected leaders have one thing in common: each person elected to office ran for office to improve this country and will work on these issues to make America better and to improve our country for all Americans."

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