The top priorities for the American Farm Bureau Federation include getting trade done, building and repairing infrastructure, continuing regulatory reform, implementing the farm bill, getting the new Clean Water Rule implemented, and getting to know new members of Congress, executive vice-president Dale Moore told members of the North American Agricultural Journalists at their annual spring meeting April 7-9 in Washington, D.C.
On the topic of disaster aid for farmers facing the fallout of a catastrophic year of wildfires, hurricanes, floods, two “bomb cyclones” and more, Moore said the House has passed a “good bill” and the Senate is moving closer.
The challenge is providing enough funding to cover a wide range of current catastrophes, including record flooding in the Missouri River and Mississippi River basins that is likely to continue well into summer while still providing additional aid to help victims of hurricanes that devastated parts of Texas and Florida and left the entire island of Puerto Rico without power.
On major mergers of agribusinesses, Moore said the official Farm Bureau position is to trust the Department of Justice to vet the companies to ensure that going forward, there will still be competitive prices as well as robust research and development activity.
“We’re watching,” Moore said. “We don’t have the resources that DOJ does to sort this out. This is a cycle. We are anxious to see the new ‘look’ at Corteva and how Bayer invests in Monsanto and deals with the lawsuits they have inherited. It isn’t our policy to try to tell other people how to run their businesses.”
Moore said there have been bipartisan wins for agriculture. When President Donald Trump tweeted about shutting down the Mexican border, both parties came together to say “no,” he said. And there is widespread agreement that Congress needs to give Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue adequate resources to help farmers hit by disasters.
“We are lucky that the key committees in Congress have a bipartisan attitude,” he said. “It helped get the 2018 Farm Bill passed and the government shutdown stopped.”
The AFBF is confident that the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement will be ratified, he said.
“Our biggest challenge will be getting Speaker Pelosi to put it up for a vote,” he said. “There a lots of new members of Congress, and we need to make sure they understand that the USMCA is critical, not just for North American trade but to set the stage for new agreements with countries that have moved into the new TPP without us. If we can’t show that we can get our act together with our neighbors, why should they work with us?”
Moore agreed that the heated rhetoric on immigration and a border wall is an impediment to getting Mexican approval for the pact.
“We’re seeing new ways to negotiate, some very new to me,” he said.
On the proposed “Green New Deal,” Moore said that there are lot of concepts included, and some on the extreme end are unlikely to succeed.
“The proponents of this legislation say they want ag to succeed but without technology,” he said. “However, real sustainability is about staying in business, and we aren’t going to engage with the people who don’t acknowledge that point.”
Moore said that the U.S. Farm and Ranch Alliance, which was formed with the idea of “telling agriculture’s story” to consumers at large, is being “retooled” to take new approaches, especially on the environmental front.