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U.S. farm bureaus outline policy initiatives for 2018
U.S. farm bureaus outline policy initiatives for 2018

American Farm Bureau Federation annual conference begins today

By Diego Flammini
News Reporter
Farms.com

Ahead of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual conference, Farms.com looked some of the priorities at the state level for the year.

Indiana

The Indiana Farm Bureau will focus some of its efforts on eliminating food deserts in rural communities.

A food desert is an area or neighborhood that lacks healthy food sources, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

The group is also working towards extending broadband across the state.

“This is not just a rural issue, but we need coverage in small towns and cities,” Justin Schneider, director of state government relations with the Farm Bureau, told lawmakers on Thursday, according to Hoosier Ag Today.

Other issues include protecting livestock farmers from major changes to existing law.

Missouri

In Missouri, broadband access is also at top of mind.

The state ranks 42nd in broadband access, according to Eric Bohl, director of public affairs with the Missouri Farm Bureau. And the limited access to broadband stretches further than just farms.

Lack of broadband “holds our rural areas back in education, business, modern agriculture and general quality of life. Lack of coordination is the root cause of this failure, and Missouri needs to fix it,” he said in a Jan. 4 column.

The farm group is also targeting infrastructure issues.

Farm Bureau members have even expressed a willingness to increase transportation funding to keep roads and bridges maintained, as long as the funds are split evenly between urban and rural communities, Bohl wrote.

Michigan

Members of the local Farm Bureau are advocating for more farmer participation in local government, especially when it comes to zoning boards and other rural municipalities trying to bypass the state’s Right to Farm law.

Another priority is centered around the dairy industry.

The group has proposals ready for the 2018 Farm Bill, which include increasing access to the Dairy Revenue Protection insurance product, adding catastrophic damage coverage to the Margin Protection Program, and creating more flexibility within the Livestock Gross Margin, a livestock insurance product that protects an expected gross margin, rather than a selling price.

“With dairy farmers nationwide challenged by low prices, components of the federal-level dairy safety net are high priorities for the largest single segment of Michigan agriculture,” John Kran, MFB’s national legislative counsel, said in early December, according to The Peninsula.

Kentucky

In December, the Kentucky Farm Bureau membership agreed in 2018 to maintain the 50 percent allocation of Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) funds to the Agricultural Development Board.

Under the 1998 MSA, five U.S. tobacco companies agreed to change the way they market tobacco products and pay $200 billion to the states over 25 years, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Other state priorities for the Kentucky Farm Bureau include:

  • Recommending that sufficient funding be made available to maintain a strong grain elevator inspection program,
  • Maintaining a sales tax exemption for production agriculture, and
  • Supporting the 22.2 percent allocation of state gasoline tax revenue for rural roads.