Annual American Farm Bureau convention in Texas sets agriculture policies for 2014

Bruce and Rosanne Caughey add their voice to areas affecting farmers

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Bruce and Rosanne Caughey, who own B & C Dairy Farms, attended the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 95th annual convention in January. Even though Rosanne has been the president of the Crow Wing Farm Bureau for 10 years, it was the first time they have attended.

The Caugheys raise dairy and beef cattle, and grow corn, rye, soybeans, oats and alfalfa on their farm near Fort Ripley.

Each year, farmers from all areas of agriculture gather to discuss farming issues at the convention. The event offers workshops and seminars plus a resolutions session which sets policies for the upcoming year.

Rosanne, left, and Bruce Caughey of Fort Ripley, attended the American Farm Bureau annual convention. The best part, at least for Rosanne, was meeting other farmers from around the country.
Rosanne, left, and Bruce Caughey of Fort Ripley, attended the American Farm Bureau annual convention. The best part, at least for Rosanne, was meeting other farmers from around the country.

“It’s all about people from different regions and backgrounds coming together to develop policy that benefits all of American agriculture,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.

The American Farm Bureau’s mission statement says, “… is the unified national voice of agriculture, working through our grass roots organizations to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans and to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities.”

Rosanne said part of the job of the Bureau is to educate legislators about the varied issues that affect farmers.

“We care about the environment, animals, the food supply,” said Rosanne.

During the convention, the Caugheys heard U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack thank the American farmer for allowing others to pursue their interests and not worrying about how to produce food to feed their families.

During a workshop, members learned about creative leadership and working together.

“We learned to not be afraid to think outside the box or to speak out if we think we have a great idea,” said Rosanne.

Immigration was a well-discussed topic during the convention.

“Parts of the United States need migrant workers to harvest crops,” said Rosanne. “They find it difficult to get others to do the job.”

Stallman said that farmers and ranchers can’t wait any longer for effective, long-term solutions to the agricultural labor crisis, which has forced growers to leave millions of dollars worth of crops unharvested and threatens the country’s food security.

The AFBF’s action plan for 2014 includes agricultural labor reform, support for renewable fuels, support for biotechnology, opposition to any expanded federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act and protecting farmer and rancher interests in fiscal policies and tax reform issues.

Other topics included:

• The Milk Income Loss Contract. A new insurance program was recently implemented, said Rosanne, which compensates dairy producers when domestic milk prices fall below a certain level;

• Genetically modified crops and the farmer’s need to use the latest in technology to feed the world. “Today, farmers are able to produce more food on less land using less chemicals, water and fuel than 50 years ago,” said Rosanne;

• The Environmental Protection Agency putting the wheels in motion to propose extending federal regulatory authority to nearly every body of water in the country, said Stallman; and

• Taking part in the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s effort to help create opportunities on farms for those returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The convention attendees learned during a feed lot tour that the drought in Texas is causing cattle numbers to decrease. They visited a 60,000-acre ranch and heard a speaker from a potato and peanut farm.

The Caugheys, who host many farm tours on their acreage and promote a positive image of farming through education, said they, and the other farmers they met while in Texas, are all proud to be farmers.