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Farmers Union delegates agree on 2007 farm bill plan

Agriculture.com Staff 03/07/2007 @ 10:33am

About 150 delegates to the National Farmers Union annual meeting in Orland Florida Monday endorsed a new farm bill that would include a countercyclical safety net, a grain reserve dedicated to biofuels, a strong competition title, better funding for conservation and a permanent disaster program.

The delegates backed their resolutions committee's proposal unanimously, with no debate.

Later, NFU president Tom Buis said putting an emphasis on counter-cyclical payments is better than emphasizing direct payments, which the USDA's proposed farm bill would do with an increase in direct payments.

"We don't want to go back to decoupled payments. It's too much to defend in a good year and not enough in a bad year," Buis told Agriculture Online.

NFU wants counter-cyclical payments "indexed to the cost of production to support family farmers during periods of low commodity prices."

Buis said his group's support for countercyclical payments would not include the revenue-based payments that the National Corn Growers approved in Tampa, Florida on Saturday. The USDA has also advocated a revenue-based safety net, but unlike the Corn Growers, USDA would base its program on national yields and prices. Buis said that approach wouldn't work well.

"What the administration rolled out is all based on the aggregate. Farmers don't farm on the aggregate," he said. Even the corn growers' proposal, based on county-level yields, would not cover the differences in income and yields from farm to farm, Buis said.

Although NFU members had no debate on farm policy, a lively discussion of mandatory animal identification followed. Members from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Missouri, Iowa and other states backed a resolution to oppose mandatory use of electronic identification in livestock.

Opponents argued that a government-run mandatory ID program will give already powerful meat packers even more power in the marketplace and will violate the privacy of producers.

"There's no reason for the government to know where my cows are," said Iowa delegate Bob Gunzenhauser.

Yet others argued that the meat industry itself is circulating misinformation about animal ID.

John Hansen, Nebraska Farmers Union president, said that opposing mandatory animal ID would help delay implementation of mandatory country of origin labeling even more.

When the resolution against mandatory animal ID came up for a vote, it was defeated, 82-50.

Here is the full text of Farmers Union's farm bill resolution, which supports:

  • A farm income safety net that uses counter-cyclical payments indexed to the cost of production to support family farmers during periods of low commodity prices.
  • A farmer-owned strategic renewable energy reserve tied to the needs of producers who utilize agricultural products, livestock feed consumers and food manufacturers, which protects against years of poor crop production, with storage payments set at levels equal to commercial storage and adequate release levels that encourage fair market prices.
  • A renewable energy title that makes energy independence a national priority, one that prioritizes and facilitates farmer, rancher, and community ownership of renewable energy and value-added projects, including ethanol, biodiesel, and farmer and community-owned wind energy.
  • A comprehensive competition title that addresses current anti-trust practices and ensures anti-trust laws will be enforced.
  • A permanent disaster program, funded from the general treasury in the same manner as other natural disasters so that agricultural disaster assistance does not require "offsets."
  • A conservation title that provides adequate funding to support the authorized programs, as intended by Congress. The title should include full funding for the Conservation Security Program, substantial increase in the funding for the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical services to assist farmers and ranchers in the development and implementation of conservation cost-share programs.
  • A strong nutrition title to help provide basic food and nutrition needs for citizens of all ages, especially our young, elderly, and physically handicapped.
  • Dairy programs that include a strong safety-net and a supply management system to protect producers from a market collapse. Dairy price supports should reflect cost of production shifts for producers.
  • A rural development title that helps farmers, ranchers, and members of the rural communities develop new and better economic opportunities to support and build the economic base of rural America.

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