American agriculture needs a solid farm program in order to negotiate from a position of strength in world trade talks, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said during his address at AFBF’s 88th annual meeting.

“Trade matters to American agriculture. That is why we must open markets beyond our borders, to create demand that will keep us productive and profitable,” Stallman said.

Although there have been recent success stories about reopening markets to U.S. beef in Japan, Columbia and Peru, South Korea is destroying its chance to have a free-trade agreement with the U.S., Stallman explained.

“South Korea has recently rejected shipments of U.S. beef that were flown in, claiming that during a visual inspection a few bone fragments the size of a half-grain of rice were discovered,” he said. “If that isn’t a blatant trade barrier, I don’t know what is.”

Delivering his seventh annual address as president of the nation’s largest farm group, Stallman said economic issues like trade are second nature to Farm Bureau. However, he cautioned that “we must not lose sight of other big issues such as the extreme measures anti-agriculture groups use to present their fiction as fact to the American public.”

Under siege

“Animal agriculture, in particular, is under siege,” Stallman told Farm Bureau members. “Activists are coming to a state near you. These assaults must stop. This is where we draw the line. It’s time to play hardball.”

“The new weapon of choice to chase away livestock producers, feedlot owners and poultry growers is the Superfund Law, also known as CERCLA,” Stallman said. “Superfund is the federal law used to clean up industrial toxic wastes and was never meant to apply to agriculture, which is why we are seeking a legislative clarification to set the record straight.”

Approximately 4,800 Farm Bureau members from across the country are gathered in Salt Lake City for their annual meeting.

Stallman said Farm Bureau would continue to advocate on priority issues such as immigration reform and renewable energy.

“Like many Americans, we favor securing our borders and tightening enforcement on employers who knowingly disobey the law,” he said. “The only way to accomplish this is to enact a comprehensive bill that addresses all aspects of the immigration process, including U.S. agriculture’s need for an adequate legal workforce. If we do not meet this goal, agriculture could face losses up to $5 billion annually.”

Regarding renewable energy, Stallman said its production is “a positive aspect of agriculture that will not only increase demand for our products but reduce dependency on foreign oil.”

Challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards dealing with agriculture is another Farm Bureau priority for 2007. “Science tells us that proposals to regulate agricultural dust are simply unjustifiable,” Stallman said. “Dust is a natural part of farming. We will not tolerate a posse of dust deputies staking out our fencerows.”