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Guest Opinions

Protecting Our Freedom to Farm in 2016

Written by Zippy Duvall

I am honored to begin serving alongside you all as the new president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). For almost a century, AFBF has been the leading voice of agriculture, standing up for farmers and ranchers across our great country.

But the real strength of Farm Bureau is our active grassroots membership. Like you, I learned a long time ago that I’d have to step outside my fencerows if I wanted to have a say in the matters affecting my farm. You are the backbone of the organization, and together we can address the toughest issues facing U.S. agriculture in 2016.

Freedom from government overreach

Farmers and ranchers need to be free to work our land. We have a deep respect for our natural resources – our living depends on it. But some federal agencies, far removed from the realities of farming, seem not to care.

Instead of respecting our expertise, they produce unworkable regulations that ignore our concerns and trample our rights. The courts and the Government Accountability Office have called out the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its unlawful advocacy and legal overreach with the Waters of the U.S. rule. Farmers and ranchers can’t wait through the years of litigation it may take to resolve this in the courts.

We’re pleased that Congress has recognized this and joined in the call to ditch the rule. EPA must draft a new rule that acknowledges our concerns and respects our freedoms.

Free to innovate

Technology plays a critical role in improving efficiency and reducing our environmental footprint. We are using less pesticide on our crops, farming with fewer acres and using water more efficiently thanks to smarter farm equipment, data services and genetically modified seeds.

Emerging technologies like drones and CRISPR gene modification mean we’ve yet to see the limit of what we can do to make our farms even more efficient and productive.

Scientists, federal agencies and industry leaders all agree that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe, but the push for mandatory labeling sends a mixed message to consumers. When it comes to knowing what’s in our food, consumers deserve the facts, not scare tactics.

We want to have an honest discussion about what biotechnology is and how it’s used for everyone’s good. It’s up to Congress now to create a national, voluntary labeling program that gives farmers and consumers choices.

New markets freed up

America’s farmers and ranchers are proud to feed and fuel the world. Our agricultural exports are higher than ever before thanks to important trade agreements that break down barriers like high tariffs and non-scientific restrictions on our food.

We have some of the highest quality products available, and our ability to sell American-grown products around the world will keep U.S. agriculture prospering. New trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership will open up some of the fast-growing markets in the world. AFBF will be working with Congress and the administration this year to move this agreement forward to set a more level playing field for U.S. agriculture.

Of course, these aren’t the only issues we’re facing in the months ahead. We’ll continue to work to help farmers face an uncertain economy, press on for a workable solution to farm labor and continue working tirelessly to ensure all consumers have access to safe, affordable food, just to name a few.

I’m eager to serve with all of you at the national level and am confident that we’ll continue to protect the business of agriculture for future generations. We’ll step outside those fencerows and make our voices heard. At Farm Bureau, we’ve shown time and again that we are stronger when we stand together.

Visit AFBF online at fb.org.