"We have to become informed, get active and contact our congressmen," says Jimmy Dodson, a Robstown, Texas, farmer. Dodson discussed the need for political activism during the recent Texas Gulf Coast Cotton Conference in Corpus Christi.

"Get on the Web, read, attend the Beltwide Cotton Conferences, and support your farm associations," he said. "That’s something we all can do. It’s time to take care of business.

"Decisions made in Washington affect the farm more than any decisions we make or anything the weather does. And many of those decisions are made by people who do not understand agriculture."

Dodson says many Environmental Protection Agency and other federal employees understand little more about agriculture than they can see from a satellite photo. "But things look a lot different from ground level on a farm."

He said farmers must focus attention on the real problems at ground level. "The issues are complex and we need folks to use more common sense (to solve problems). We need to know who our enemies are. And just because someone disagrees with us doesn’t mean he’s an enemy. He may not understand."

Dodson encouraged farmers to contact their senators and urge them to pass farm legislation "close to the House version. We have to have that. We’re at a decided disadvantage in the United States. If we cut acreage, other countries will take up the slack. Look at the various bills proposed and let folks know what you want."

Maintaining the complex agriculture infrastructure also demands a certain level of production. That not only includes the gins, elevators, equipment dealers, and chemical companies but also "the expertise of farmers," Dodson said.

He also admonished farmers to protect resources. "Bollgard was just re-registered. We have to focus on insect resistance management to keep that product viable. We have to do our part to maintain refugia."

He said Bollgard II and other biotech products also would hit the market soon. "It’s exciting to think about what can be done, but it may be increasingly tough to get new products registered."

He encouraged public breeding programs to assure a constant source of new and better varieties.

"A technology protection system (the terminator gene concept) may be necessary to prevent foreign countries from getting value-added technology without paying fees."

Dodson said the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) also poses a challenge to agriculture. "That program considers the (effects of) cumulative exposure, but it has no real science to guide it. Currently, organophosphates are undergoing risk assessment. Findings could result in restricted labels."

He said Total Matter Daily Load (TMDL) regulations represent EPA "overstepping its authority to include non-point source pollution in its directives. We could see EPA or water boards dictating fertilizer use or number of livestock allowed."

To prevent or minimize adverse or arbitrary restrictions, farmers have to let administrators, legislators and others know how regulations will affect them at ground level, Dodson says.

"We have to get involved."