Information Provided by American Farm Bureau with contributions by Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: Following the delegate session of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th Annual Convention, which wrapped up in early January in San Antonio, the organization’s board of directors met to set AFBF’s strategic action plan to address public policy issues for 2014.

While the Farm Bureau delegate body passed several policy issues, it was the American Farm Bureau's board of directors that set the strategic action plan influenced by actions taken by the delegate body.

The board-approved plan includes focusing the organization’s attention on the following key issues:

  • Agricultural labor reform,
  • Support for renewable fuels,
  • Support for biotechnology,
  • Protecting farmers’ interests in regard to new technology systems and data compilation,
  • Opposition to expanded federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act,
  • and Protecting farmer and rancher interest regarding fiscal policy and tax reform issues.

“This plan represents those issue areas where we believe the American Farm Bureau Federation and its grassroots members will have real opportunities to achieve success this year, as well as challenges we must tackle to help safeguard our members’ and their abilities to operate their farms and ranches,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.

Aggressively working to secure passage of legislation that addresses both long- and short-term agricultural labor needs is a priority for AFBF, and the organization will continue to push for reforms as part of the ongoing national debate about immigration policy.

“America’s farmers and ranchers require a reliable and steady supply of labor, and the policies in place are simply not adequate to address this issue in a comprehensive, national scope,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “It has been too long in coming, but we will continue to work with our allies and members of Congress to get this job done.”

The board also approved the inclusion of efforts to advocate for standards and incentives strengthening the U.S. renewable fuels sector.

“Whether the issue is support for the renewable fuels standard, or key tax incentives targeted to sectors such as biodiesel or cellulosic ethanol, AFBF is focused to keep renewable fuels front and center as our nation continues to develop plans to address our energy needs,” Stallman said.

Another important priority is working to protect farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to use agricultural biotechnology and other innovative technologies. That point also includes the organization’s resolve to make sure farmers and ranchers are represented in matters related to agronomic data compilation, so-called “big data,” and the associated systems and applications of those technologies in the field.

“Agriculture is a high-tech business,” Stallman said. “Farming and ranching is frequently on the cutting edge of science and as those tools are developed and scientifically proven, we need to ensure they are available. We also know that as science and technology leads to new ways to compile and use massive amounts of data, there must be some policies in place that consider the farmer’s point of view, and we will make sure that happens.”

The board-approved action plan also includes a comprehensive effort to oppose expansion of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

“As it now stands, there are federal proposals that would allow jurisdiction over so-called waters that are not even wet,” Stallman said. “That includes areas such as ditches that are dry for weeks and months on end. That represents little more than federal regulatory intrusion and would greatly hamper the ability of many farm families to put their land to productive use for food production.”

The board also directed AFBF to protect farmers’ and ranchers’ interests in debates on fiscal policy and tax reform.

“Any new tax schemes, by their nature, take money directly out of the pockets of our hand-working farm and ranch families, and we will continue to pursue policies that lessen our tax burdens,” Stallman said.

Many additional issues will warrant AFBF’s attention this year, Stallman explained, and through constant monitoring and attention, those issues will be addressed as they rise on the nation’s agenda.

“The 2014 strategic action plan, as set by the board, is built on the dedicated efforts of our grassroots members working together during our annual convention and throughout the year to achieve policy goals that will benefit all of agriculture, as well as the nation’s consumers and our customers around the world,” Stallman said.

With Most Unique to our State, Arizona Agriculture’s Priorities Align with National’s in Many Ways

Examining American Farm Bureau’s strategic plan, one quickly observes how Arizona Farm Bureau’s priorities align with nationals in many ways. Arizona Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors last November approved a series of priority issues that the state organization will focus on for 2014.

Below are Arizona Farm Bureau’s priority issues for 2014.

  • We will engage directly on water issues and ensure solutions are tied to local community support. 

  • As directed by policy we will advocate to protect rural Arizona water from water transfers, to protect water rights on farmland, and to require development on land with existing water.

  • We will support adequate funding for the Arizona Department of Water Resources to handle legal challenges, including federal claims and for the agency to do its work to plan and develop water for the future.

  • We will support the University of Arizona College of Agriculture in its need for funding of the new Veterinary School.

  • We will continue to work on limiting expansion of the wolf recovery program.

  • Support efforts to expand the meat inspection services and find new innovative ways to provide state meat inspection service.

  • Very detailed work will continue on air quality programs, especially as it relates to Pinal County.

  • With or without visa reform, we will need to increase information flow to members to navigate all employer related laws and regulations, including health care.

  • 2014 midterms include major statewide elections in Arizona.  Staff will ramp up all politically related activities on issues and candidates.  We need to increase candidate interface with our members using a variety of mediums and venues.

"For me it’s about getting a worker visa program in place and I'm still optimistic Congress could get something done," says Arizona Farm Bureau's President Kevin Rogers. "The labor issues impacts our entire agriculture industry. We've got to get something done."

Rogers also shared his excitement for the year ahead. "It's a new year," he said. "I'm ecstatic that Arizona Farm Bureau had growth in membership and various successes all across the board. Our volunteer leadership and our staff continues to shine for our organization and I really appreciate all that everyone does. And, right around the corner is American Farm Bureau Federation's convention; I'm expecting an outstanding event that begins this Saturday."