Farm Bureau Supports National GMO Pre-emption Bill

da35d-72350_hr_1997The American Farm Bureau Federation is supporting proposed Senate legislation that establishes federal pre-emption of what was expected to grow into an unruly patchwork of state-by-state mandatory GMO labeling laws.

“Our nation’s top scientists agree that crops enhanced through GMO technology are safe, and this bill will act to stop the expansion of state laws that threaten interstate marketing and effectively ignore science,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall, following a vote by the AFBF Board of Directors to support the bill.

“The bill is far from perfect, but it correctly puts the federal government in the driver’s seat in important areas such as protecting interstate commerce and new crop development techniques. There is no public health or scientific justification for the bill’s mandatory disclosure provisions, but the national uniformity established by this bill is paramount.” 

Go here for the full story:

Ask members of Congress to act on Farm Bill through new Web site

More than 35 agricultural organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, have united to urge congressional lawmakers to pass a five-year farm bill before the current programs expire in September.

“Calling the farm bill the ‘farm bill’ suggests its impact is limited only to farms and to the rural areas to which they are so closely tied. It’s really a jobs bill. A food bill. A conservation bill. A research bill. An energy bill. A trade bill. In other words, it’s a bill that affects every American,” the groups say in emphasizing the legislation’s reach beyond farming and ranching.

The full statement is available on the coalition’s website,, where visitors to the site can also contact their members of Congress.

Along with a listing of the coalition members and key points about the farm bill and why immediate action is critical, the site makes it easy for farmers, ranchers and consumers to tell their lawmakers how important the farm and food bill is to them.

Click below for a list of organizations that make up the Farm Bill Now coalition.  

• 25×25 Alliance

• Agricultural Retailers Association

• American Beekeepers Federation

• American Farm Bureau Federation

• American Feed Industry Association

• American Pulse Association

• American Seed Trade Association

• American Sheep Industry Association

• American Soybean Association

• American Sugar Alliance

• Biobased Products Coalition

• Council of State Governments East

• Council of State Governments Midwest

• Farm Credit Council

• National Association of Wheat Growers

• National Barley Growers Association

• National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

• National Corn Growers Association

• National Cotton Council

• National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

• National Farmers Union

• National Milk Producers Federation

• National Potato Council

• National Sorghum Producers

• National Sunflower Association

• Northharvest Bean Growers Association

• Northeast State Association for Agricultural Stewardship

• Produce Marketing Association

• Southern Peanut Farmers Federation

• Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance

• State Agriculture and Rural Leaders

• United Dairymen of Arizona

• United Fresh Produce Association

• U.S. Canola Association

• U.S. Dry Bean Council

• USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council

• USA Rice Federation

• Western Growers Association

• Western Peanut Growers Association

Breaking News: Senate Passes Farm Bill

Wilmer Stoneman
Associate Director
Governmental Relations

Many thought the odds were against it, but the farm bill has made it over a major hurdle. Senators approved their version of the bill (S. 3240) in a strong bipartisan vote of 64 to 35.

But this is just the first step. We still have a lot of concerns that need to be addressed as the farm bill moves forward. The House Agriculture Committee announced earlier this week that it was postponing its consideration of a farm bill draft until July 11. The committee was originally slated to take the legislation up next week.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said this yesterday: “There is still a lot of hard work ahead to fully secure the kind of policy we believe our farm and ranch families need, but we applaud the Senate for approving a workable bill and moving this process forward. The Senate has provided us solid footing by approving a bill that stands firm on $23 billion in savings, yet protects and strengthens the federal crop insurance program and provides a commodity title that attempts to encourage producers to follow market signals rather than make planting decisions in anticipation of government payments.”

 In votes taken Wednesday, Farm Bureau was successful in: opposing an amendment that would have prohibited any program to promote and provide research and information for a particular agricultural commodity without reference to specific producers or brands (a check-off program) from being mandatory or compulsory; opposing an amendment that would have eliminated the $4 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program and added $50 million annually to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program from the current $150 million authorization; opposing an amendment that would have imposed a $250,000 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) means test for all programs in the farm bill, including conservation; and opposing an amendment that would have reduced loan rates and eliminated other changes to the sugar program made in the 2008 farm bill.

Farm Bureau was not successful in efforts: to oppose an amendment requiring conservation compliance as a requisite for crop insurance; and to oppose an amendment establishing payment limits for marketing loans and loan deficiency payments at $75,000 a year for individual farmers and $100,000 a year for couples. 

Farm Bureau’s position was also unsuccessful when an alternative amendment passed that would limit crop insurance premium subsidies to any person with an adjusted gross income exceeding $750,000. AFBF had supported a related unsuccessful amendment that called for a study of such an eligibility requirement and to disallow the action if it carried negative ramifications for the cost, availability or administration of the crop insurance program.

Federal Issues Update: EPA Updates to Air Quality Standards and Regulations of Greenhouse Gases Concern Farmers

The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed updates to its national air quality standards for both coarse and fine particulate matter. EPA proposed no changes to its standards for coarse particles, which include dust commonly generated by typical farming practices and driving on unpaved rural roads.

“Although we’re pleased with EPA’s decision not to propose changes to its standards for coarse dust particles at this time, there’s much more to this story,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We remain concerned that the final rule EPA will publish later this year could look very different from the initial proposal.”

EPA is expected to publish a final rule on its National Ambient Air Quality Standards in December. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review ambient air quality standards every five years.

“America’s food producers – farmers and ranchers – need stability and certainty regarding government regulations, which is why Farm Bureau supports the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act,” said Stallman.

The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, which would exempt agriculture from EPA regulations, was passed by the House but has not been brought up for consideration in the Senate.

In other air quality news, AFBF told a House subcommittee today that many of America’s farmers and ranchers will face economic challenges due to the EPA’s plan to regulate greenhouse gases.

Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, testified on behalf of AFBF before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

“Costs incurred by utilities, refiners, manufacturers and other large emitters to comply with GHG regulatory requirements will be passed on to the consumers of those products, including farmers and ranchers,” Shaffer said. “The end result is that our nation’s farmers and ranchers will be forced to contend with higher input costs to grow food, fiber and renewable fuels.”

Shaffer said farmers will face another economic hit when regulations are fully phased in under EPA’s “tailoring” approach which will apply to farms and ranches that emit, or have the potential to emit, more than 100 tons of greenhouse gases per year. Those farms and ranches will be required to apply for and obtain a Title V operating permit. Based on EPA’s numbers, Shaffer said just the expense of obtaining permits would cost agriculture more than $866 million.

In his testimony, Shaffer expressed Farm Bureau’s support for the House-passed Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which prevents EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. Farm Bureau opposes the regulation of greenhouse gases by EPA under the Clean Air Act.

Breaking News: DOL withdraws proposed regulations on child ag labor

Good news regarding child labor in agriculture:

The U.S. Department of Labor today issued the following statement regarding the withdrawal of a proposed rule dealing with children who work in agricultural vocations:

“The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations. The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.

“As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.

“The decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.

“Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders – such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H – to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.”

Child Labor Update: Know the Facts

Wilmer Stoneman, Associate Director
VFB Govermental Relations

With the introduction of legislation designed to block implementation of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed child labor regulations, press coverage of the issue – both positive and negative – has increased.  Some articles critical of the effort to block the DOL proposal contain inaccuracies and misstatements.  One recent instance occurred  in which Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was criticized for supporting AFBF’s position.

It’s important to remember the facts when you come across one of these articles.

America’s farm and ranch families place a high priority on assuring that everyone who works on our farms and ranches, especially young people, are protected by appropriate safety measures. There is no doubt that the Department of Labor’s proposed rules regarding child labor will have a direct negative impact on our families and our farms and ranches.

Clearly, Congress intended there to be a parental exemption regarding the jobs they ask their children to carry out on the farm. It is clear that DOL has the authority to draft regulations relating to agricultural child labor that restrict youth 16 and under from performing tasks that are “particularly hazardous.” These regulations, known as hazardous occupation (HO) orders, are issued under the Fair Labor Standards Act and stipulate what tasks a youth may not perform on a farm. The law, however, also clearly states that a youth working for a parent or person standing in the place of the parent may perform any task.

The parental exemption has been violated. DOL has traditionally interpreted this parental exemption to include all farms substantially owned by the parent or guardian. Last September, however, DOL proposed to change that traditional interpretation, limiting the parental exemption only to farms “wholly-owned” by a parent or person standing in the place of a parent. This proposed interpretation meant that a brother and sister who jointly owned a farm themselves through a partnership or limited liability corporation would no longer be allowed to hire their nieces, nephews or grandchildren to help work on the farm. Such a proposed interpretation significantly restricted the statutory exemption. It was only after an outpouring of critical comments – numbering nearly 10,000 – from interested individuals and members of Congress that DOL announced it would re-propose the parental exemption portion of the rule; however, it is unclear what the new proposal will include or when it will be announced.

 There is no question that a number of simple everyday tasks would be prohibited by the DOL proposal. For example, there has been extensive discussion about the rule’s prohibition on the use of power-driven equipment and whether it would prohibit youth under the age of 16 from operating simple tools like a battery operated screwdriver. There is no question that it would. Taken directly from DOL’s proposed regulation, Ag. HO #2 prohibits a youth under age 16 from “any activity involving physical contact” with “all machines, equipment, implements…operated by any power source other than human hand or foot power,” and DOL has explicitly stated that this includes “batteries.” It appears quite explicit and clear in the rule that the department proposes to outlaw the use of battery-powered implements like screwdrivers. Moreover, expert comments submitted to the department support this reading of the DOL proposal. The National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) referred to the proposed Ag. HO #2 and specifically noted that the “the proposed definition also exceeds the recommendations made by NIOSH [2002] and would prohibit the use of small handheld battery-powered equipment (e.g., a flashlight) that is not prohibited by any nonagricultural HO.”

 Farm Bureau members are well aware of the risks involved in agriculture and support appropriate regulatory safeguards. We are joined in our efforts by virtually every agricultural organization, including FFA and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

The number of injuries to youths on farms has decreased drastically even without the DOL proposal. An Agricultural Safety Survey, published on April 5, 2012 by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, shows that agriculture-related injuries to youth under 20 years of age decreased 54 percent from 2001 to 2009. Moreover, work-related injuries only contributed to a quarter of youth injuries occurring on farm operations.

Farmers and ranchers will continue to be committed to the safety when it comes to the younger members of our families making valuable contributions to our family businesses. Ensuring the safety of our children is our priority. The DOL proposal, however, extends caution beyond recognition, to the point of having severe negative effects on farm families. The proposal really does strip away the ability of youth to work in agriculture, and it nullifies the desires and goals of parents to pass on to our children the traditions and values that farm work provides. There is concern that the DOL simply does not understand the societal structure of the farming community, how farms are organized and how farm families help one another. While we support appropriate federal regulations in this area, those regulations should be based on reliable data and real risks.

AFBF President responds to Reps. Hurt and Altmire’s "Preserving Rural Resources Act"

AFBF President
 Bob Stallman

Last week, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman released a statement in support of Reps. Robert Hurt (R-Va.) and Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) H.R. 4278, the Preserving Rural Resources Act.

“H.R. 4278, the Preserving Rural Resources Act, introduced in the House of Representatives, addresses a critical issue,” Stallman said. “The legislation reinforces agricultural exemptions granted to farmers and ranchers by Congress in Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Farmers, ranchers and the forestry community are facing increased federal regulatory and compliance costs, as well as constraints on land used for the production of food, fiber and fuel. We’ve seen a concerted effort by regulators to narrow the scope and usefulness of the Clean Water Act exemption Congress explicitly intended for agriculture.” This legislation is intended to reaffirm the following exemptions:
• Normal farming, silviculture and ranching activities;

• Maintenance and emergency reconstruction of dikes, dams, levees, riprap, breakwaters, causeways and bridge abutments;

• Construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds and irrigation ditches, and maintenance of drainage ditches;

• Construction of temporary sedimentation basins;

• Construction and maintenance of farm and forest roads or temporary roads for moving mining equipment; and

• Any activity with respect to a state approved programs
The Hurt (R-VA) and Altmire (D-Pa) amendment simply clarify that these exemptions apply to activities described listed above. AFBF is seeking bipartisan cosponsors to introduce this legislation in the Senate. 

Bills Blocking DOL Child Labor Regulations Introduced


Update on Child Labor from AFBF:

U.S. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced common sense legislation last week, the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act, to prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from enacting its controversial proposed restrictions on youth working on family farms. Both of Oklahoma’s Senators- Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, have signed on as co-sponsors.

The Department of Labor has proposed 85 pages of unreasonable and overreaching rules that would unnecessarily restrict the participation of young people in agriculture related activities,” said Thune. “Family farms and farming communities teach young people responsible work ethics and these proposed rules would change that by severely limiting the commonplace activities in which young people can learn about agriculture. This is another example of the Obama administration initiating unsolicited regulations that would prohibit normal practices that have been carried out in rural areas for generations—not to mention limiting a desperately needed workforce to replace the current generation of farmers whose average age is nearing 60 years old.”

“There is no better example of the vast overreach of government into the everyday lives of Americans than the Department of Labor’s proposed rule to regulate young people working on farms and ranches,” Sen. Moran said. “For generations, the contributions of young people have helped family farm and ranch operations survive and prosper. If this proposal goes into effect, not only will the shrinking rural workforce be further reduced, and our nation’s youth be deprived of valuable career training opportunities, but a way of life will begin to disappear. This proposal should alarm more than just rural America. If the federal government can regulate the relationship between parents and their children on their own family’s farm, there is virtually nothing off limits when it comes to government intrusion into our lives.”

In December of last year, Thune and Moran and 28 of their Senate colleagues sent a letter to Secretary Solis requesting that the proposed rule be withdrawn and outlined numerous concerns.

American Farm Bureau Federal Issue Update: Child Labor

AFBF President
Bob Stallman

On Sept. 2, 2011, the Department of Labor (DOL) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would affect the employment of youth in agriculture. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) permits youth under the age of 16 to work in agriculture, but also authorizes the secretary of labor to designate certain activities or occupations that may be “particularly hazardous” and to prohibit youth from being employed in such jobs. Such restrictions do not apply to youths employed on farms owned or operated by their parents or individuals standing in place of their parents.  DOL proposal would greatly restrict permissible jobs for youths under 16, in addition to narrowing the parental exemption; DOL also appears to be soliciting comments on expanded restrictions, including prohibiting youth in some circumstances from working in extreme temperatures and being paid piece rates.

Farm Bureau and more than 70 other agricultural organizations filed extensive comments with DOL objecting to the proposals. These agricultural organizations represent the breadth of nearly every commodity and region.

Last week, DOL decided to re-propose the ‘parental exemption’ rule, which which prohibits youth from doing various farm activities on farms at which they don’t reside. American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman released the following statement regarding the issue.

“The decision today by the Labor Department to re-propose the ‘parental exemption’ in the child labor rule is a positive step, but much more work is needed. We will continue to work with the administration to address our concerns with the rule. Any final regulation must make sense, not infringe on the traditional rights of family farms and not unnecessarily restrict the ability of young people to work in agriculture. As DOL’s proposed rule stands currently, that is not the case.

“Farm work has always played a significant role in the lives of rural youth across the country, whether they are milking cows on their grandparents’ farm or harvesting apples as a summer job. DOL’s rule would have a detrimental effect on family farms and would create an even tighter supply of farm labor when it’s already in short supply.

“Farm and ranch families are more interested than anyone else in assuring the safety of farming operations. We have no desire at all to have young teenagers working in jobs that are inappropriate or entail too much risk. But, laws and regulations need to be sensible and within reason—not prohibiting teenagers from performing simple everyday farm functions like operating a battery-powered screwdriver.

“We appreciate Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s diligent work on the issue and look forward to working with USDA and DOL further on establishing a rule that respects the importance of youth farm work in rural America and the importance it plays in our system of family-based agriculture.”

Critical Issues Campaign success! House Sends Robert Hurt’s Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act To The Senate

The letters you sent during our Stand Our Ground: Critical Issues campaign made a difference! Thank you to those who participated!

House Sends Robert Hurt’s Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act To The Senate

The House has voted to approve Robert Hurt’s Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act (H.R. 1633), a bipartisan bill that he co-authored with Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD). H.R. 1633 was passed the House by a vote of 268-150 and will now be reported to the Senate.

“I am pleased to see the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act (H.R. 1633) was approved by the full House today with bipartisan support, and it is my hope that our colleagues in the Senate will recognize the importance of providing regulatory relief to our job creators and take action on this legislation to do so,” said Hurt

“Over the past three years, the American entrepreneurial spirit has been crippled by federal government regulations, resulting in millions of Americans out of work, and many businesses closing their doors. At a time when too many Central and Southside Virginians are struggling to find jobs, we must continue to promote policies that will remove the federal government as a barrier to job creation in order to foster an economic environment that both provides an opportunity for job creators to hire and incentivizes them to expand.

“The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act gets to the root of this problem by removing the federal government from the business of over-regulating. This legislation provides us with a step forward to getting our economy back on track by providing immediate relief to farmers and rural areas through preventing more stringent, job-crushing dust standards from being implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By passing this legislation, the House has taken one more step toward our goal of creating certainty for our job creators, removing the roadblocks posed by excessive regulations, and getting our economy back on track so that our small business owners can get back to creating the jobs that Central and Southside Virginians and all Americans need and deserve.”