Farm Bureau Minute

Farm Bureau Minute

by Mike White, President, New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau

New Mexico’s farm and ranch families are a lot like your family. We have bills to pay, are concerned about our kids’ education, and want to make sure that the food we provide our family is as healthy and nutritious as it can be. To that end we spend a lot of time in Santa Fe during the legislative session. There are many bills introduced that could potentially affect how farms and ranchers operate in our state. For instance we actively promote House Bill 564 dubbed the “Right to Farm” bill because of the protections it afforded our state’s food producers. Many farmers are facing lawsuits for what have been traditionally accepted practices such as baling hay first thing in the morning, or running an irrigation pump late into the night. Urban communities today wish to have more local food grown for their consumption, but once a famer is put out of business due to nuisance lawsuits, there are very few willing to risk their livelihood and take their place. Which reduces the capabilities to provide a locally fresh food supply.

Not only does New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau (NMF&LB) have priorities, so does our umbrella organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation.  Identified in their strategic plan as top tier priorities are Biotechnology, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and Immigration. These priority issues all come from the local people involved in Farm Bureau across the nation. NMF&LB supports these issues and deem them very crucial to the sustainability of agriculture in New Mexico and the nation.

AFBF explains their priorities this way:

Biotechnology – the application of recombinant DNA science to engineer specific traits in plant varieties – is an important tool for farmers to improve yield and profitability by reducing the use of costly inputs, improving weed management and reducing tillage for better soil, water and air quality. Today, roughly 90 percent of corn, cotton and soybeans grown in the U.S. have been improved through biotechnology, and farmers are choosing biotech traits when growing other crops such as alfalfa, sugarbeets and canola. Despite rapid adoption by farmers and a strong scientific consensus that biotechnology does not pose health and environmental risks, regulatory burdens are slowing research and innovation of new biotech traits and are starting to reduce U.S. farmers’ international competitive advantage. In addition, activist groups have repeatedly threatened new traits by blocking science-based regulatory decisions, filing spurious lawsuits and advocating for labeling mandates.

Clean Water Act – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have proposed a rule that would significantly expand the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA). This proposed regulation seeks to expand federal authority beyond the limits approved by Congress and reaffirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court; the potential impact on farmers and ranchers could be enormous. Farm Bureau opposes any proposal that seeks to fundamentally expand the federal regulatory reach of the CWA.

The proposed rule provides none of the clarity and certainty it promises. Instead, it creates confusion and risk by providing the Agencies with almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects, including common farm ditches, ephemeral drainages, agricultural ponds, and isolated wetlands found in and near farms and ranches across the nation. The proposed rule defines terms like “tributary” and “adjacent” in ways that make it impossible for a typical farmer or ranchers to know whether the specific ditches or low areas at his or her farm will be deemed “waters of the U.S.” These definitions are certainly broad enough, however, to give regulators (and citizen plaintiffs) plenty of room to assert that such areas are subject to CWA jurisdiction. The proposed rule will give the agencies sweeping new authority to regulate land use, which they may exercise at will, or at the whim of a citizen plaintiff.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) – provides a set of protections for species that have been listed as endangered or threatened and is administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Originally enacted in 1973, Congress envisioned a law which would protect species believed to be on the brink of extinction. When the law was enacted, there were 109 species listed for protection. Today, there are nearly 1,600 domestic species on the list, with 125 species considered as “candidates” for listing. Unfortunately, the ESA has failed at recovering and delisting species since its inception. Less than two percent of all listed species have been removed from ESA protection since 1973, and many of those are due to extinction or “data error.”

Immigration – U.S. agriculture faces a critical shortage of workers every year, as citizens are largely unwilling to engage in these rigorous activities and guestworker programs are unable to respond to the marketplace. This situation makes our farms and ranches less competitive with foreign farmers and less reliable for the American consumer. Securing a reliable and competent workforce for our nation’s farms and ranches is essential to agriculture and the U.S. economy.

 

How can we as a state organization help to advance these priorities? By becoming actively involved. Call your local, state and national lawmaker. Write a letter to the editor explaining how these are not just national issues, but concerns that affect the day-to-day management of your farm or ranch. Get active on social media.  Every Facebook post and Tweet counts.  Case in point, the EPA counted tweets such as “I like clean water” as a ‘comment’ in support of the proposed Clean Water Act. Social media is having a huge impact in the world of policy making. Remember, in the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” Let’s remind our lawmakers that their pencils affect our lives.  ν