I respond to your article in the Delta Farm Press entitled, Senate disaster bill criticized.
The letter you are referring to cites a correspondence from American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman to Senators Cochran, Lincoln, and Wicker thanking them for introducing important disaster aid efforts and outlining a few concerns in the legislation that AFBF feels may reduce overall support for the bill from other members of the Senate.
In your article, you failed to mention parts of the letter that are important for your readers to consider.
(1) The letter first thanks Senators Cochran, Lincoln, and Wicker for their tremendous efforts of bringing this issue to the forefront and introducing such important legislation.
(2) It points out that American Farm Bureau Federation supports disaster assistance that will: be delivered in a timely fashion, provide assistance without opening the farm bill, provide assistance to all types of farmers and ranchers, and be politically viable.
(3) The letter does mention that the supplemental direct payment for program crop producers in the bill does not require a loss for eligibility, yet supports the direct payment as the delivery mechanism. Later in the letter, Stallman goes on to outline a proposal already discussed with USDA officials where producers could be allowed to self-certify that they’ve met a quality or quantity loss threshold immediately, receive their disaster payment without delay, and provide paperwork proving their quality or quantity loss at a later date. In this proposal, American Farm Bureau will work to see the loss threshold be as low as possible to include many producers who had shallow, yet devastating, losses this crop year. Politically American Farm Bureau Federation sees the direct payment for program crops without a proof of loss provision in the bill as a tremendous challenge in getting the needed cosponsor.
(4) And finally, this letter outlines their concern on the Nov. 17 cut-off date for a county or parish to be a declared disaster county for producers to receive program benefits. Although this was simply a budgetary scoring technique at the time the bill was introduced, it did exclude many producers in states such as Louisiana and portions of Arkansas which also need support. As a general farm organization representing many states, AFBF had to consider that provision in their letter.
In your article, you would imply that American Farm Bureau Federation is being critical of these leaders who are the only members of the Senate who have stepped up to the plate to help our farmers and ranchers. As a member state of the American Farm Bureau Federation, I felt it was important to at least point out several items in the letter that you failed to provide to your readers that I think better illustrate the true intent of this correspondence.
As far as our efforts go, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) has been working tirelessly on disaster assistance for quite some time now. We have been to Washington, D.C., several times and spent countless hours on the phone with congressional staff members working on this issue. We have worked tirelessly with legislators to assure that provisions in any disaster bill will help all producers in Mississippi who suffered a loss, while maintaining a politically viable package that will garner enough support through the legislative process for final passage. We have literally set aside most of the other issues we have been working on to work disaster aid right now, as we know the importance of this matter to the farm families of Mississippi.
Furthermore, on Monday, Dec. 7, the voting delegates at the MFBF annual meeting approved a formal resolution thanking and supporting Senators Cochran and Wicker and Congressman Travis Childers for their efforts in introducing legislation to bring disaster assistance to our farmers and ranchers. We will continue to support these efforts.
On both the state and national levels, Farm Bureau is a great organization that has the farmer’s true interests at heart. It has done so many positive things for farmers, ranchers and rural livelihoods over the years. American Farm Bureau Federation is consistently ranked among the top lobbying organizations in the country. Here in Mississippi, MFBF is the only organization that carries any state-wide legislative strength, all while solely representing the interests of a grassroots, producer membership base.
I am rather disappointed in your article as it portrays the Farm Bureau organization in a negative light, as being an obstacle to bringing disaster aid to our farm families that need support right away, when there is nothing further from truth.
I hope this letter helps to eliminate some of this confusion.
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to address my concerns.
Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation