“Our elected leaders have got to turn the page on partisanship,” Zippy Duvall, president of the Republican-leaning American Farm Bureau Federation, told reporters Sunday during an online news conference before the organization's annual convention.
Duvall's comment Sunday followed his statement after a mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol on Wednesday that “This nation was founded on the belief that we can debate our differences without resorting to violence.”
“Storming the U.S. Capitol — or any federal building — and threatening the lives of police officers, first responders and elected leaders is not the answer. We must come together, not as farmers or city dwellers or suburban families, but as Americans, and put aside the bitterness that has divided us and rally behind the principles that unite us.”
In what also appeared to be a reaction to other events of the past year, Duvall also told reporters that Farm Bureau is determined to be “more inclusive” in terms of kinds of farms, races and genders.
In his address to convention, which is also being held online, Duvall claimed credit for the agricultural policies of the last few years.
“The relationships we have built with Congress and the administration helped deliver $38 billion to help our farmers survive and continue producing the nation's food supply,” Duvall said.
But he also praised the policies of President Donald Trump's administration.
“Perhaps the greatest win came in the regulatory arena,” Duvall said. “We succeeded in replacing the Waters of the U.S. Rule with a new Clean Water Rule that complies with the law. We've achieved new policy for our farmers to access crop protection tools that they needed. We've achieved updates in endangered species policy and management of our Western lands. Tax reform enacted in 2017 helped farmers keep more of what they worked hard for and earned so that they can reinvest it in our farms and ranches.”
“New trade agreements promise brighter days ahead for us in our exports,” Duvall said.
“Of course, there's been a lot of attention over the last couple of years about the trade war with China and the impact that it's had on our farm exports. Rightfully so. But, the reality is, the past couple of years have been very productive in the area of new trade deals, with the U.S.-Japan agreement, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the China phase 1 agreement that commits China to purchasing about $40 billion a year in U.S. commodities — almost twice the level of exports to China before the trade war started.”
To reporters, however, he called the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump frequently criticized, “a wonderful agreement” and said that he looked forward to getting “trade back on track.”
Duvall also talked about the future.
“Now, we've had a presidential election and in a few days we'll have a new president and a new Congress that will be sworn in,” Duvall said.
“Folks, let me assure you, it's still our time. Farm Bureau has built strong, productive relationships with every administration, every Congress. And, we're already building those relationships again to continue to be the strong, national voice of agriculture.”
Duvall also told reporters that former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, President-elect Joe Biden's choice of Agriculture secretary, was “a partner of ours during the Obama administration” and that he looks forward to working with Vilsack again.
In terms of future policy, Duvall said, “We must evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on our food system and recognize what worked and what needs to be changed.”
“We must make sure that we are at the table for the discussions around addressing climate change. Farmers already have a great story to tell. When it comes to protecting our environment, about 140 million acres of farmland are enrolled in conservation programs – that's more than the land mass of California and New York combined. Renewable fuels are made from agricultural feedstocks and are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 71 million metric tons per year — the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road.
“Now, I'm not saying that we rest on those laurels, but I believe agriculture's great track record shows just how much we can achieve when farmers and ranchers are at the table when we develop solutions.
"We still have a lot of work to do on our taxes. The current agriculture exemption from the estate tax will expire in 2025. We need to make sure that exemption is permanent, and we must protect the tax cuts enacted in 2017.
“We have to solve the problem of insufficient agricultural labor once and for all. We need to build more markets for our U.S. farm exports around the world. And, ag innovation will be more important than ever as we move into the future. Innovation has been our edge for the past 100 years. We must maintain investment in agriculture research and continue to develop and improve new plant breeding technologies in order to meet the food demands that lie before us.”
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport
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