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Farm Bureau still wants farm bill

DANIEL LOOKER 01/12/2013 @ 11:00pm Business Editor

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said Sunday that he's optimistic that some type of immigration reform might be passed in Congress, if it can happen within the next nine months, before the next election cycle begins.

"I think the environment is ripe in this nine-month period. It's riper than it has been for several years, maybe," he said.

Stallman said he knows that legislation is being considered in both the House and the Senate, although he hasn't seen any proposals yet. The Senate may be further along, he said.

Both political parties are keenly interested in courting Hispanic voters and the largest group among them, those with ties to Mexico, tend to view immigration reform favorably.

Besides the changing political environment, key lobbying groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pushing for reform.

Farm Bureau is one of eleven groups that recently formed the Agriculture Workforce Coalition to push for reform of guest worker programs that would make them easier for farmers and ranchers to use.

The group includes several fruit and produce organizations and the National Milk Producers Federation.

The AWC staff has also reached out to the Obama Administration.

"They had a meeting at the White House to talk about what we're doing and to encourage them to move forward," Stallman said.

The meeting was held within the last two weeks.

According to the AWC, many sectors of agriculture are having trouble finding labor.

"A 2012 survey by the California Farm Bureau found that 71 percent of tree fruit growers, and nearly 80 percent of raisin and berry growers, were unable to find an adequate number of employees to prune trees or vines or pick the crop," says the group's website.

According to AWC: "The shortage of farm workers has several causeBob Stallman, the president of the nation's largest farm group, American Farm Bureau Federation, called on Congress to pass a five-year farm bill in 2013 and to resolve agriculture's labor needs with improved guest-worker laws during his speech to members at their annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Sunday.

"We just elected and re-elected leaders for a new term. We must let them know that our nation can no longer afford political drama, manufactured crises and self-serving jackass stubbornness," Stallman said, drawing a hearty round of applause.

He reminded his listeners that Congress didn't pass a farm bill last year and extended existing law until the end of September.

"What Congress did on the farm bill is not perfect, but at least it gives us certainty for 2013," Stallman said.

"Now, we need the new Congress to show the leadership needed to pass long-term farm policy and enact the kind of reforms that the Senate and House agriculture committee have approved," Stallman said.

Stallman got another round of applause when he gave the group credit for a partial victory on estate taxes in the fiscal cliff legislation passed by Congress at the beginning of this year.

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