It’s a great time to be a part of agriculture, according to American Farm Bureau Federation Vice President Barry Bushue, and U.S. farmers have access to numerous new technology and trade opportunities. Bushue, who also is Oregon Farm Bureau Federation’s vice president, spoke Dec. 3 at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s 2015 Annual Convention in Norfolk.
“Despite an overall aging population, young farmers are starting up new enterprises or joining their families’ farms,” Bushue said. “There is tremendous opportunity ahead.” Bushue noted that agriculture is the foundation of many rural communities and gives those communities a sense of stability. But he also cautioned that the industry still faces many challenges. With federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overreaching their boundaries, he said, farmers “need to stay on course. But it’s the passion and resilience for agriculture that made our future so bright.” And through Farm Bureau, he said, the nation’s farmers and ranchers are able to engage with Congress and regulatory agencies and courts to help protect their businesses. It was through a Farm Bureau campaign launched earlier this year that producers began working to share factual, science-based information about genetically modified organisms. The campaign was driven, in part by recent GMO product bans and attempts in some states to mandate labeling of foods that contain GMO ingredients.
“Biotechnology should not be a county-by-county or a state-by-state issue,” Bushue said. “These products are tested for safety by federal agencies. The bottom line is that this is a national issue, and we need a national solution.” He said the most potentially damaging issue American farmers currently face—and the biggest overreach by a federal agency—is the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” rule. “Virginia Farm Bureau has been an aggressive and reasoned voice against the rule,” Bushue said, calling it “the biggest land grab in the history of the agency.” Enforcement of the rule was halted in October by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Bushue said that helps farmers’ cause, but he said it won’t help forever.
“Cases will go through the courts for years, but it can be stopped now” if the Senate passes S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. That act would nullify the “Waters” rule. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in May. Bushue said farmers should be “proud of where we are and be unapologetic for what we have accomplished. … By nature we are particularly passionate people for our farms. The biggest reason for Farm Bureau’s success is … all of you.”