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Challenges ahead as a new year begins

Looking ahead, there will be twists and turns in the road that awaits us, especially as we delve into the farm bill this year.

It’s hard to believe that 2011 has come and gone and the New Year is here.

Looking back, Farm Bureau had a very good year. We saw the success of some of our priority issues and the undertaking of several endeavors that are significant to the future of agriculture.

Looking ahead, there will be twists and turns in the road that awaits us, especially as we delve into the farm bill this year. But, knowing that Farm Bureau is on the right track as we head down that road, I am confident we will be met with success at the end. As the old jazz song goes, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…and I’m feeling good.”

A toast to the past

It was a good year for Farm Bureau’s trade priorities. The Colombia, Korea and Panama trade agreements all passed Congress and were signed into law. Further, Mexico lifted $2.5 billion of retaliatory tariffs against U.S. farm products, and the World Trade Organization welcomed Russia into its membership. All of these victories will result in increased U.S. farm trade.

On the tax front, an IRS provision was repealed that will allow farms, ranches and other businesses to forego unnecessary and burdensome Form 1099 reporting requirements. We also achieved repeal of the 3 percent withholding tax.

Farm Bureau also supported House-passage of the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which eliminates the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Dust legislation

And, we successfully urged EPA to not propose changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for coarse particulate matter, which includes dust from rural areas. In an effort to secure regulatory certainty on the dust issue, we also supported House passage of the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act.

In 2011, Farm Bureau undertook a very important initiative with its participation in the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. This unified, long-term and coordinated campaign for American agriculture is unprecedented in size and scope, with most every U.S. agriculture organization working toward one goal: moving the needle to gain consumer trust. I am confident this effort will vastly improve the connection between consumers and farmers and ranchers as we move further into 2012 and the future.

Keeping our resolutions

As we settle in to the New Year, there are also visible obstacles on the horizon. One such challenge will be to complete a farm bill by years’ end that meets our expectations, while also staying in tune with the fiscal state of the nation.

Farm Bureau supports the need for deficit reduction and tackling the nation’s rising debt, and we understand that in order to do this, cuts in farm programs are likely. While we will fight tooth and nail against disproportionate cuts, we will do our share to get the nation’s economy back on track. I am confident Farm Bureau is up to the task.

Water issues, too, still loom. Farm Bureau is leading both legal and policy efforts against EPA’s Chesapeake Bay regulations, which unlawfully usurp states’ authority. Left uncontested, EPA’s unprecedented initiative could set the stage for federal mandates on land use and water quality regulations nationwide, which could negatively affect all farmers and ranchers.

Other issues on the horizon include continuing to work toward comprehensive farm labor and immigration reform plans, maintaining our efforts to combat anti-agriculture animal welfare initiatives, and making sure agriculture’s voice is heard during the 2012 elections.

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