NFU president says 2015 holds opportunity for positive change
WASHINGTON – The passage of the 2014 Farm Bill and the continued strong bipartisan support for both Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were among the top public policy highlights that mark 2014 as a positive and progressive year for family farming, said Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union (NFU) president. He added that 2015 is already looking like a year with great potential for positive change.
“Passage of the five-year farm bill, which not only included important crop insurance safety net provisions for family farmers and ranchers but also reduced overall farm spending, ensured that when disaster strikes, farmers and ranchers have a back-up plan in hand,” said Johnson. “All while helping to reduce the overall federal deficit,” he said.
COOL, which has been under unremitting attack by multinational meatpackers as well as the nation’s top trade competitors, continues to enjoy widespread support among both livestock producers and the public. A May 2013 poll revealed that more than 90 percent of consumers support the labeling law. “The Obama administration is continuing its efforts to work with the World Trade Organization to ensure that American consumers know where their food is from,” he said. “COOL is good farm policy and good consumer policy.”
The RFS, which has greatly reduced the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, remains on track, and NFU is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to embrace the targets passed by Congress. “The RFS has breathed new life into rural America; making sure it stays on track is one of NFU’s top priorities,” said Johnson.
This past year also saw a worldwide effort through the United Nations to spotlight the important role of family farming both domestically and internationally. One of the highlights of the yearlong celebration was the passage of a resolution in the U.S. Senate designating 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). NFU led the U.S. Committee for IYFF and played a key role in having the resolution adopted by the Senate. “Recognizing the critical role family farmers play in providing food, fuel, feed and fiber to the global population and alleviating hunger and poverty was important because we need to be developing our future farmers – both in the United States and abroad – right now,” said Johnson.
Looking into 2015, NFU will continue to concentrate its efforts on helping young and beginning farmers and ranchers to develop and acquire leadership and farm management skills. “NFU’s Beginning Farmers Institute has helped participants from across the country acquire the education and management skills they need to succeed in farming,” said Johnson.
Johnson also noted that 2015 will be a big year for trade – with negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement with 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an agreement with the European Union – possibly coming before Congress.
NFU is also looking forward to a renewed relationship with Cuba, a major policy change that was announced by the administration recently. “Cuba is one of our closest neighbors and a potentially valuable trading partner, and thankfully we can begin to turn the page on the decades-old, failed embargo mentality,” he said.
Johnson said that the U.S. needs to take a new approach to trade, and these new agreements are a good place to start. “The time is now to open a new chapter on America’s trade policies,” he said. “Moving forward, let’s make sure these deals have real, balanced and fair benefits for us, before we put our names on them.”
“Additionally, we must demand transparency to the process to ensure that these and future agreements are really in our national interest,” he added.