National farm policy should be rewritten this year to establish a program that protects farmers from catastrophic revenue losses by using a flexible combination of fiscally responsible tools, said voting delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 93rd Annual Meeting.

In approving the organization’s farm policy for 2012, the farmers and ranchers endorsed a multi-pronged policy proposal, including a provision for catastrophic revenue loss protection that works with a flexible range of crop insurance products, as well as amending the current farm bill’s marketing loan provisions to better reflect market values.

The adopted policy calls for a farm bill that “provides strong and effective safety net and risk management programs that do not guarantee a profit and minimizes the potential for farm programs affecting production decisions.”

“Our delegates approved a program to help farmers manage the many different types and levels of risk they face today, in particular catastrophic revenue losses that can threaten the viability of a farm or ranch,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “That is consistent with what we believe is the core mission of the federal farm program.”

Stallman was re-elected as AFBF president for a seventh two-year term. He is a cattle and rice producer from Columbus, Texas. In addition, Barry Bushue was re-elected to a third two-year term as AFBF vice president. Bushue produces berries and nursery plants in Boring, Ore., and also serves as Oregon Farm Bureau president.

The delegates defeated a proposal to retain the current farm bill’s direct payments. In addition, by almost a two-to-one margin, the delegates defeated an amendment that would have allowed a patchwork of support through multiple programs for different commodities and regions.

“Delegate action against the patchwork approach recognized that it is impossible to ensure equity between diverse programs for various commodities,” Stallman said. “Without that assurance, one program would inevitably provide more government protection than the next program and we would inadvertently be encouraging producers to take their signals from government programs rather than the marketplace.

“Our delegates approved a policy that is flexible enough to work within the funding constraints we, as a nation, are facing, and the fiscal challenges we have a duty to address,” Stallman said. “Our delegates recognize we need to move beyond the policies of the past and to move toward programs to help producers deal with risk.”

One of the big advantages of the new AFBF farm policy position is that it offers a much simpler approach to farm program design than other farm policy proposals, according to Stallman.

The AFBF farm policy also encourages farmers to manage their farms using available risk management tools. According to Stallman, farmers should be allowed and encouraged to make individual management decisions to purchase crop insurance coverage that suits their farms and individual levels of risk.

Specialty crops

Another positive aspect of the Farm Bureau farm policy proposal is that it can be applied to specialty crops.

“Our new farm policy position also includes the possibility of providing a farm bill risk management program for producers of fruits and vegetables,” Stallman said. “This is just one positive aspect of the proposal that we believe not only will broaden its utility to all farmers but will also appeal to an American public that is more interested in the wholesomeness, safety and variety of our domestic food supply.”

In a related discussion on dairy policy, delegates voted to move away from the current dairy price support and Milk Income Loss Contract programs and toward a program that bases risk protection on milk prices minus feed costs. This takes production costs into consideration, as well as recognizes the dairy industry’s regional differences, according to Stallman.

On renewable fuels, the delegates reaffirmed support for the federal Renewable Fuels Standard by defeating an amendment to strike that support

“The RFS remains critical to the viability of ethanol as an alternative to imported petroleum fuel,” explained Stallman, “and the delegates felt that continuing to support production and use of domestic renewable fuels was a national security issue.”

The delegates opposed the Labor Department’s proposed expansion of the list of jobs deemed too hazardous for minors.

“The proposal has raised serious concerns in farm country about our ability to teach our children how to farm and instill a good work ethic,” Stallman said. “There is a great deal of concern about federal regulatory overreach, but few issues have piqued farm families more than this. It goes to the very heart of how agriculture works, with farmers and ranchers, who were taught by their parents how to do farm work safely and responsibly, training the next generation to follow in their own footsteps.”

The delegates also supported a moratorium on new regulations on small businesses and agriculture.

At the AFBF annual meeting, 369 voting delegates representing every state and agricultural commodity deliberated on policies affecting farmers’ and ranchers’ productivity and profitability. The policies approved at the annual meeting will guide the nation’s largest general farm organization in its legislative and regulatory efforts throughout 2012.