SAN DIEGO – Leaders of the nation’s two largest farm organizations shared the stage at the International Sweetener Symposium and said they would help rally agriculture during the upcoming farm bill debate.
“This is not a time to be divided; this is a time to be united,” said Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, at the opening session Aug. 7 of the American Sugar Alliance’s annual meeting. “It’s our time. We have the right people in the right places…to write a food security bill to benefit all Americans.”
Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, agreed and explained that it’s important for agriculture to come together and work closely with members of the nutrition and conservation communities, who will be essential to the farm bill’s passage.
“A farm bill should address needs, not a budget,” Mr. Johnson said, adding that the 2018 farm bill is particularly important given today’s tough economic times in agriculture. “The economic situation facing farmers is pretty tough right now and has been for the past several years. This financial pain is felt very broadly across farms of all sizes.” He noted that agricultural loan repayment delinquency rates, bankruptcies and restructured debt were up.
Mr. Johnson said he expected the farm bill would be approved “on time” and without cuts, adding that it needed support from farmers and ranchers, conservation groups and nutrition groups.
“Congress needs to show voters in rural America they can get something done,” Mr. Johnson said, calling the farm bill “a heavy lift” but easier than some other legislation.
It was the first time in many years that the president of the Farm Bureau, the nation’s largest farm organization, spoke at the sugar meeting, and Mr. Duvall said his appearance underscores the need for all of agriculture to come together ahead of the 2018 farm bill.
“We’re telling Congress we need a food security bill for this country,” Mr. Duvall said. “It’s not a safety net (for farmers).”Both farm group leaders said the atmosphere in Washington under the Trump administration was conducive to strong farm policies, and that the current farm economy of mostly low commodity prices and declining farm income would make it easier to get the farm bill passed than in 2013 and 2014, when the farm economy was more robust. They also agreed that grassroots engagement in the process was key, urging producers to actively contact their elected representatives during the farm bill process.