The American Farm Bureau Federation 2018 Annual Convention is Jan. 5-10 in Nashville, Tennessee.
President Trump was the headliner of the event, but several other speakers took the stage and members were recognized for their accomplishments. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.
Moran discusses farm bill, disaster assistance and ag trade
Passing a disaster assistance bill for agriculture will set the stage for the next farm bill, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, told workshop attendees.
Ideally, lawmakers will address contentious issues related to cotton and dairy programs in the disaster bill and “get them out of the way” before the farm bill debate heats up, Moran said. The Senate is likely to take up the House-passed disaster aid bill, amend it and send it back as a package.
“We know you’re anxious to see action” on the farm bill, but progress is often slow, Moran said. He also noted that if all of agriculture doesn’t work together, nothing will get done. The House is ahead of the Senate in terms of progress on the farm bill, and overall timing of the legislation is uncertain. Moran did predict the Senate will release its version of the farm bill in the first few months of 2018.
As far as what the upcoming farm bill should include, “the current safety net is not adequate and changes are needed,” Moran said, referring specifically to the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs for crops.
Touching on another current farm policy issue, Moran told farmers and ranchers “we need to make sure exports of farm goods are protected and enhanced, not diminished.” He encouraged farmers and ranchers to “make certain the case is made on the importance of ag trade” whenever they have the opportunity.
Ag law experts review legal issues
Court decisions and changes in the law can have significant impacts on farm and ranch businesses, according to two agricultural law experts.
Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, assistant professor and Extension specialist in agricultural law with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, and Paul Goeringer, Extension legal specialist at the University of Maryland, gave an overview of legal issues affecting farmers and ranchers, including the Waters of the U.S. rule, dicamba drift, a tentative settlement in the Syngenta corn class action lawsuits and “ag gag” laws.
“Congress gave the EPA jurisdiction over ‘Waters of the U.S.,’ but didn’t define Waters of the U.S.,” said Lashmet. This left the definition up to the agency, but rather than interpreting the scope of the regulation, EPA expanded it with the 2015 WOTUS rule. Numerous lawsuits were filed, and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the rule in 2015. Farmers could be required to get a permit for a farm pond, with permit costs ranging from $30,000 for a “simple” permit up to $280,000 for a complex one, and with daily fines of $37,500 for non-compliance. In 2016, the Supreme Court heard a challenge, and a ruling is expected sometime in summer 2018.
Goeringer said new EPA regulations will force new labeling requirements for dicamba use. Only permitted, certified applicators who received dicamba-specific training can apply the product, and operators cannot spray if wind is higher than 10 miles per hour. There are new record-keeping requirements and more specific tank cleanout requirements. Dicamba can only be sprayed during daylight hours, and farmers must do additional checks for sensitive crops before spraying. Other labeling requirements from 2017 will still apply, and new state laws and regulations have been adopted in several states.
Tentative Syngenta Settlement
In 2013, corn shipments were rejected at a Chinese port due to the presence of Viptera, and lawsuits were filed across the country by shippers and grain handlers, as well as farmers who did not plant the seed. Many suits were consolidated in Kansas, where a jury awarded $217 million to farmers. The court also certified nine initial class-action lawsuits in several states. Unconfirmed reports say a settlement could be $1.5 billion, but any payout will take considerable time to be decided. The message to farmers, said Lashmet, is to “pay attention to your mailbox for a mailing about opting in or out, or a notice of settlement.”
“Ag Gag” Laws
Farm protection laws, unfairly described as “ag gag” laws by opposition groups, have been passed in Idaho, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and North Carolina. These laws make it a crime to trespass on or video ag operations or to seek employment with intent to video ag operations. The court affirmed some of these provisions and struck down others.