Farm Bureau Policy Push for 2024

American Farm Bureau Federation Focused on Farm Bill, Ag Labor Challenges

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
Connect with Chris:
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, during his opening speech at the group's annual meeting this week in Salt Lake City. Duvall stressed the importance of lobbying Congress to complete a farm bill this year. (DTN photo by Chris Clayton)

SALT LAKE CITY, (DTN) -- The American Farm Bureau Federation wants Congress to pass a new farm bill with a stronger safety net, as well as pass immigration ag labor reforms.

Both the farm bill and immigration now are directly tied to the gridlock that has overtaken Congress at the start of a presidential election year. A key member of the House Agriculture Committee, for instance, sees the farm-bill debate carrying into 2025.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) kicked off its 105th annual meeting Sunday in Salt Lake City.

Zippy Duvall, a Georgia farmer and president of AFBF, stressed in his opening speech the importance of rallying producers this year to push Congress to complete its work on the farm bill.

During his speech, Duvall called for members to pick up postcards at the convention and send them to lawmakers as a "call to action."

"We have to send a resounding message to Congress to deliver a new farm bill for our farms and our country," Duvall said.


Duvall noted Congress needs "to get through the budget process," but farmers need to be more vocal to encourage lawmakers to pass a new, "modernized" farm bill.

Duvall pointed out some of the changes that have happened since the farm bill was passed in 2018 with the pandemic, rising costs of inputs, extreme weather events and trade disputes.

"The targets (reference prices) within Title I have to be modernized if it's going to be a true safety net," Duvall said. "The farm bill needs to have more farm in it."

The safety net for farmers, Duvall said, is critical for Americans to ensure they have a secure food supply. If Congress doesn't find the funding to boost those reference prices, Duvall said "it would be devastating to agriculture and it will weaken our risk management tools and they will be in a position where they will not be able to provide them the coverage and protection that our farmers need to survive one year to the next."


Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., a former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, was at the AFBF meeting Sunday to receive a distinguished service award. Now back on the committee, Lucas told DTN "Right now there's not enough political oxygen to do anything else besides try to get the government funded."

Congress last week just passed another short-term funding extension for most federal agencies. A big problem continues to be the level of spending, one of the reasons the appropriations bill for USDA and the Food and Drug Administration continues to stall.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is roughly 90 days on the job, Lucas noted. "And he has to deal with a number of underclassmen who had some very idealistic expectations and may not be always the most pragmatic about how to accomplish their goals."

Getting the government funding bill completed would alleviate a lot of pressure, but the chairs and ranking members are still stuck with trying to find new a path forward on the farm bill. Lucas estimates it could take $70 billion to $100 billion over 10 years to improve the farm safety net. "It's a lot of money."

It would be simpler to reallocate some of the funding passed early in the Biden administration and the $19.5 billion in conservation dollars from the Inflation Reduction Act; those are often eyed. That might be the simplest way to clear a farm bill, Lucas said.

"If they can't, the ultimate question is, is it better to extend what we have out for another year?" Lucas said. "Or, if we don't have the resources, do we need to pass a five-year farm bill? It's woefully underfunded. I'd rather extend another year and look into policy."

When asked about Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's proposal to use Commodity Credit Corp. funds to boost the safety net, Lucas said that the CCC has always been viewed as an emergency reserve, but all ideas are possible.

"I'm pleased the secretary understands that we have to make something happen," Lucas said. He added, "That said, CCC has traditionally been that reserve emergency credit card out there. I just as soon would not have to tap that on an annual basis. But right now, everything's on the table. It's the funding issues that are the complicated part for us."

Asked about the complication of a GOP-led House passing a farm bill that President Biden would sign into law, Lucas said Republicans "overwhelmingly" represent rural America, as well as farmers and ranchers.

"Presidents come and go," he said. "Majorities in Congress, if they are well managed, last a long time."


There are few more divisive issues in Congress than immigration, but AFBF keeps pressing for reforms that would allow more foreign guest workers into the country on full-time basis, and in a way that reduces the wages farmers pay for those workers now.

Farm Bureau wants a new guest worker program that would allow year-round workers. They also want changes to the way wages are calculated for those guest farm workers. AFBF wants a cap on how much wages can rise year to year.

"We also need a wage rate calculation that is fair, that compensates workers fairly, but also keeps our farms economically sustainable," Duvall said.

Duvall pointed out "the political environment is difficult," but he said fixing agriculture's labor challenges also is needed.

"It's the biggest limiting factor that American agriculture has," Duvall said.

Farm families may have children returning from college and they are trying to expand their operations, but they are limited by the inability to get workers, Duvall said. "The only way we can expand is to have good workers and a dependable program for that to happen," he said.


In his speech and talking to reporters, Duvall also said AFBF is closely watching the proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule on scope three emissions reporting. The rule will require companies to detail emissions in their supply chains to investors. Duvall said he has spoken several times with Gary Genzler, the chairman of the SEC, who has assured Duvall that the rule is not intended to apply to farmers.

"It is imperative that farmers are not tangled up in this regulation," Duvall said.

Duvall plugged that it was thousands of emails and messages from Farm Bureau members that prompted Genzler to start having conversations with AFBF about the impact of the reporting rule.

Duvall warned the rule could prevent small farmers from doing business with public companies.

Companies closely tied to agriculture, however, are expected to increasingly ask farmers for more information about their climate footprint. Travis Cushman, deputy general counsel for AFBF, said there is a difference between companies occasionally requesting information and a mandate that all public companies do it.

"As it is now, if a company does want this information, they can maybe pay a premium for it," Cushman said. "If it's required from everybody, you're going to lose any incentive, you have to do that. And it will be something that will make it much, much harder for the small and medium size farm to survive."

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @ChrisClaytonDTN

Chris Clayton