American Farm Bureau Federation just wrapped up its 2020 annual convention. Delegates to the convention elected leadership and voted on policy priorities for the coming year.
I’m always interested in AFBF’s policy decisions, because they really come from the grassroots up. So I thought I would highlight the issues on farmers minds and how that might impact agriculture.
Support for Climate Change Research
AFBF delegates recognize the increasing challenges of climate change, and they want to see more research done. They also want to see that research focus on regional differences. But they don’t want states to each have different approaches that create a patchwork of laws and regulations. Delegates prefer a uniform national plan.
Interestingly, the delegates also recognized that agriculture is already a leader in combating climate change. They want to see more of the data supporting that published and promoted. I’m ecstatic about this prong! Farming has become a punching bag and it needs to stop. This information should help.
Review of Crop Data Reports
Folks outside of agriculture probably don’t know it, but the USDA regularly puts out crop reports throughout the growing season. It’s meant to give farmers, purchasers, and the markets an idea of how things are progressing. But many farmers were critical of USDA’s crop reports in 2019. It seemed that no matter how bad things were on the ground, in light of record flooding, USDA kept releasing sunshine-and-lollipop crop reports. And every time, the commodity prices would plummet.
AFBF delegates want this process reviewed. There’s obviously a lack of confidence in how these crop reports are tabulated and released. USDA Secretary Perdue says he’s done a comprehensive review and everything was above board. But delegates want more assurances. Given the impact these reports have on the market, I don’t blame them.
Farmers who participate in federal farm programs are subject to a lot of conservation practices. For example, decisions are made on whether “wetlands” can be farmed or not. But sometimes those decisions happen within the agency and farmers don’t get a lot of control over it.
So AFBF delegates want USDA to make some changes. They want to see more transparency and due process for farmers, especially in the wetland delineations and the appeals process. This priority was the most interesting to me. I’ve personally heard stories from frustrated farmers. And it’s interesting that this issue made it all the way to the national level.
Hemp and THC Levels
The 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for hemp production. But there are still a lot of questions in the implementation. The delegates were particularly interested in the allowable levels of THC in hemp.
THC is the chemical that gives people all the good feels in marijuana. Because hemp is close relative to marijuana, it can also have some THC in it. But how much? AFBF delegates support allowing a higher THC level. They also want to increase the time frame for when farmers test the crop for those levels. Because so many things about producing hemp are still being regulated and researched, I predict these issues will be around for the next few years.