America’s farmers and ranchers are more productive than ever and are providing a solid economic foundation for our nation, according to Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“We are the 1 percent that is producing food and fiber for the other 99 percent,” Stallman declared in his annual address to the approximately 7,000 Farm Bureau members gathered for AFBF’s 93rd Annual Meeting.
Farm and ranch families are growing more food with fewer resources than ever before, Stallman said.
“Over a 20-year period, corn yields are up 41 percent. Per bushel soil loss has fallen by 70 percent. Water use per bushel of corn is down 27 percent. All major crops show similar trends,” said Stallman.
He also extolled the record-breaking growth in U.S. agricultural exports over the past year.
“We sold $42.5 billion more in agricultural products than we imported in 2011,” he added. “That number will stay strong into this year and, I am convinced, into the foreseeable future.”
American agriculture’s successes have come in the face of challenges, Stallman said, including droughts, and doubts about the future of agricultural policy, floods, and a deluge of government regulatory actions, storms, and an often tempestuous public conversation about the farmer’s role in feeding our nation.
Stallman discussed Farm Bureau’s Systemic Risk Reduction Program proposal, which he said would help protect farmers from catastrophic losses while recognizing today’s budget realities.
He called on Farm Bureau delegates, who will debate farm policy and other issues to put the organization on a solid footing.
Stallman said the cost of federal regulations falls the hardest on small businesses such as family-owned farms and ranches. He commended Farm Bureau members for their grassroots engagement to push back against government overreach.
Just as important as these policy concerns is the conversation with consumers, he said.
“We must engage directly with the consumer as an industry in ways we haven’t before,” Stallman said. “And while we must fully engage in this ongoing national dialogue about food and the devoted care we take when we grow it, we must also never ever forget to listen.”
He said the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, a group of 77 agricultural organizations and companies including Farm Bureau, is doing just that by listening to and answering Americans’ questions, as well as giving farmers and ranchers an opportunity to raise their voices.
“From the environment to the economy, trade and jobs, we have a great story to tell,” Stallman said.