Farm Bureau votes for higher reference prices, complicated cattle position

ATLANTA – Delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation 2022 convention voted Tuesday to urge Congress to increase the prices on which farm crop subsidies are based and adopted a complicated position on cattle trades.

Although the next farm bill will not be written until 2023, the full voting membership adopted a report of the Resolutions Committee calling for a reference price increase for all Title I commodities, increased commodity loan rates and inflation-adjusted farm program payment limits.

The Kansas and Nebraska Farm Bureau state chapters proposed amendments to strike the proposals to increase reference prices, but did not bring them up at the business session.

The issue of reference prices was one of several in which there were regional conflicts.

Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said that the final decisions on these policies would be made by the Farm Bureau board.

Duvall presided over the meeting with the assistance of Alabama Farm Bureau President Jimmy Parnell, who played the leadership role in the absence of Scott VanderWal, the South Dakota Farm Bureau president who serves as vice president of the national group. Duvall told the delegates that VanderWal was suffering from COVID-19 and that he said nothing else could keep him away from the meeting.

The delegates engaged in a lengthy debate about whether to support the proposal by senators including Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., to require a set percentage of cash sales.

Duvall said the Farm Bureau board would decide its position on the Grassley-Fischer bill after comparing it to the Farm Bureau positions.

The delegates adopted a resolution that said Farm Bureau supports the rights of producers and packers to enter into formula pricing, grid pricing and other marketing arrangements and contract relationships with a goal of “increasing the share of negotiated sales in fed cattle markets with a central focus on providing price transparency.” The delegates rejected an amendment to strike language that said, “Any government effort to increase the amount of negotiated sales should be respectful of regional differences. Any marketing requirements should be reviewed or sunset to allow for a thorough cost-benefit analysis.”

Delegates from Iowa and Nebraska vigorously supported the set percentage of cash sales proposal, while delegates from other states said they believe the proposal would reduce their incomes.

The delegates also adopted a resolution that Farm Bureau opposes “government mandates that force any livestock slaughter facility to purchase a set percentage of their live animal supply via cash bids.” But some delegates noted that Farm Bureau has supported the government mandate for the percentage of ethanol in fuel.

The organization also rejected a proposal to allow delegates other than farmers and ranchers to vote on the policy making decisions.

The South Dakota Farm Bureau proposed an amendment to favor mandatory country of origin labeling for beef, but it was rejected along with a secondary amendment that would have said mandatory country of origin labeling should comply with World Trade Organization rules.

The delegates also engaged in a lengthy discussion over President Biden’s proposal to protect at least 30% of the nation’s land and 30% of its ocean areas by 2030, also known as the America the Beautiful Initiative. Delegates expressed concern that land would be taken out of production, but disagreed on how to handle the situation, ultimately calling on Farm Bureau to monitor the situation.

Farm Bureau delegates re-elected both Duvall and VanderWall for two-year terms.

Following a procedure that was adopted in 2021 when Farm Bureau met virtually, the bylaws did not allow amendments from the floor that were not deemed friendly to the original amendment. Some Midwesterners objected to the procedure, but did not raise the issue on the floor. Duvall said he will appoint a committee to determine the rules for next year’s meeting.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Duvall noted that he had congratulated Biden when he was elected, but has never met him. “We couldn’t have a better person than Tom Vilsack to be Agriculture secretary,” Duvall said, adding that he communicates with the Biden administration every week.

Duvall said he was glad to be re-elected and “would like to do this work for a long time.”

–The Hagstrom Report

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