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Ag groups are already offering Obama advice

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."

National Cattlemen's Beef Association president Andy Groseta offered congratulations to Obama and his own wish list:

"In the coming years, ranchers, farmers and rural Americans will be significantly impacted by tax policies, environmental regulations, international trade, renewable fuel subsidies, and food safety and nutrition," Groseta said in a statement. "NCBA worked closely with the Obama campaign on each of these concerns, and we have been assured a seat at the table when decisions are made regarding these and other issues of importance to America's cattlemen and women."

The National Corn Growers Association expressed a similar message to the new President-elect: "The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) [Wednesday] congratulated President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden on their election victory. Throughout this year, NCGA has had a positive working relationship with the president-elect's campaign staff and advisers as they reached out to the agricultural community and developed a variety of policy positions that would impact the industry."

American Farmland Trust's statement to Obama emphasized conservation.

"American Farmland Trust is looking forward to helping our new president implement the crucial policies that provide support for American agriculture and farmland conservation," the group said in a statement. It asked farmers to vote on a list of farm and food priorities here.

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

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