Election 2006 – A New Beginning for Agriculture
By Kevin Rogers, Arizona Farm Bureau President
This year’s election has, seemingly in the blink of an eye, already come and gone. Arizona Farm Bureau members, both farmers and ranchers, were involved at every level, from local and state candidate races to the nineteen Arizona ballot propositions. Specifically, for the past several months many of you have worked diligently through Farm Bureau and other Ag groups to defeat the Prop. 204 “Hogwash” and Prop. 106 State Trust Reform initiatives. I want to heartily thank all who became spokesmen, gave financially, talked to neighbors, and wrote letters to the editor or posted signs and bumper stickers to defeat these attacks on agriculture.
I am proud of how Arizona Agriculture, and indeed the entire country’s Ag industry, came together to make a stand. While the results weren’t what we had hoped for on Hogwash, we did convince the voters to reject Prop. 106. And though we lost the balloting, the Hogwash fight taught us many lessons for future campaigns. Jim Klinker and Gerald Flake have written articles in this issue of the paper describing those campaigns, what we learned, and where we go from here.
At the national level, we have effectively had a revolution that moves control of the national agenda from the Republicans to the Democrats. And we should be proud that, as has happened so often in this country, we peacefully transition power according to the wishes of the voters. This process makes us a beacon on a hill to the rest of the world.
What will this mean for Farm Bureau? On one hand, nothing changes. We are a non-partisan, non-governmental organization at the county, state and national levels. We work on the issues our members want addressed, and we have a very effective lobbying force bolstered by the grassroots nature of our organization. Electoral outcomes allow us an opportunity to reconsider how our message is delivered and adjust our tactics, but we work to influence decision-makers, regardless of party.
On the other hand, every issue is certainly affected by the new balance of power. We need look no further than our own Arizona delegation to Congress, where we now have four Republicans and four Democrats – 50/50 as compared to the previous 75/25 split. I see both opportunities and challenges in this new political world.
I have new hope that some of our key policies will be implemented by the incoming Congress. Among these is farm legislation that will continue to support agricultural producers while protecting the environment and providing the world’s safest and most affordable food supply for our citizens.
Immigration reform is another area where our efforts may be bolstered in the new Congress. If an expanded visa program is implemented along with increased border security and workable document verification programs, we will have access to the reliable, legal workforce that is needed to keep our crops from rotting in the field.
The new Congress will likely give more support to the development of alternative forms of energy. The vision of 25% of our energy coming from agricultural renewables by the year 2025 may just become a reality. On the flip side, it appears that expanding domestic oil production will be more difficult.
And make no mistake, there are issues that will undoubtedly require a redoubling of our efforts. Among these are keeping environmental regulations reasonable and scientifically based, and permanently killing the death tax.
This May, your state board of directors will make its annual trek to Washington, DC, where we will engage this new Congress. While some of their faces will be different, our mission will remain the same as it’s always been: To carry the message from our members about what needs to be done to keep Arizona and U.S. agriculture thriving, competitive in the world markets, and able to provide local consumers with affordable, wholesome and healthy food.
As you go over your own postmortem analysis of the election results, I encourage you to contact me. I would like to hear your suggestions for the future.
It is never over – just a new beginning.