While he credited federal regulators for attempting to clarify the WOTUS rule, American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says their latest attempt to fix it still muddies the waters. His remarks came during the opening session of the AFB’s annual convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Duvall noted that he called for a new rule during last year’s convention. In response, more than 3,800 people sent messages to the EPA within 36 hours of his speech. Still, despite having multiple conversations and roundtables government organizations, he says the final product ignores much of what AFB called for and will lead to more confusion and more lawyers
“If our government can’t even understand the regulations, how can they expect the American people to understand them?” he said to great applause. “We should not have to hire a team of lawyers to tell us how we farm our land.”
The WOTUS rule was one of several policy issues he touched on in front of a packed audience at San Juan’s Coca-Cola Music Hall.
Farm bill ahead
One of AFBF’s top priorities this year will be shaping a new farm bill. Duvall says the biggest challenge may be working with a Congress that includes 260 members who have never worked on a farm bill before. He says that getting a bill passed will require extra effort from his organization’s members.
“We must protect and expand crop insurance. We need to ensure conservation programs remain voluntary and science-based,” he said. “And we must keep farm policy unified with nutrition policy. When ag and hunger advocates lock arms, we have our best chance of success, which we must never take for granted.”
He added that any climate-smart farming initiatives must be voluntary and market-based.
Duvall encouraged politicians from both parties to put asides partisan differences and find a solution to the current labor shortage, which he says is holding back agriculture, American businesses and rural communities.
“If we took the politics out of it and put the stakeholders in one room, I bet we’d find a solution by the end of the day,” Duvall said. “We need our legislators to set aside the political games and come to the table ready to find a solution.”
According to him, sustainability will be the third top priority for the Bureau this year. He says that the recommendations it helped develop through the Food and Ag Climate Alliance helped drive action in Washington. He praised the recently passed SUSTAINS Act and the revised Growing Climate Solutions Act as bills that give producers tools to help implement voluntary, market-driven programs on their farms.
“Farmers are innovators. We’re always looking for ways to do better by our land. Just like I don’t farm the same way my grandfather did, my grandchildren won’t farm the same way I do,” he said. “We’re taking back the narrative. We’re demonstrating our commitment, to our soil, to our water and to the air we all breathe.”
Right to repair MOU
And during his talk, Duvall announced the organization had signed a memorandum of understanding with John Deere ensuring the ability to repair their own farm equipment. In the announcement, Duvall says the agreement “addresses a long-running issue for farmers and ranchers when it comes to accessing tools, information and resources, while protecting John Deere’s intellectual property rights and ensuring equipment safety,” he says.