The increased influence of those in the animal welfare and environmental movements on national and state policy was addressed by members of the Texas Farm Bureau Resolutions Committee this week at the new Texas Farm Bureau meeting facility in Waco.
“Farmers and ranchers are dealing with increasingly important political attitudes and public misconceptions,” said TFB Resolutions Committee Chairman and TFB Vice President Bobby Nedbalek. “This, along with the age-old problems we have with marketing and production, really are eating away at today’s agriculture.”
In an effort to head off the influence of animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States—who have successfully backed initiatives in other states which make livestock production more expensive for producers but does little for the health of the animals—Resolutions Committee members suggested the Texas Department of Agriculture be the legal entity in the state responsible for overseeing animal welfare issues.
They also supported the right to use antibiotics for livestock and poultry in matters related to health care. On the environmental side of animal production, committee members strongly opposed any methane or greenhouse gas tax levied on livestock and/or wildlife because of normal bodily functions. The Environmental Protection Agency had considered a “gas tax” earlier in the year because of methane produced by cow burps.
A big challenge facing Texas farmers and ranchers is climate change legislation passed recently in the House of Representatives and being considered in the Senate. “I think we understand all of these regulations will affect Texans and especially those farmers and ranchers who have large inputs of fuel and fertilizer,” Nedbalek said. “These are the kinds of things that are very, very detrimental to the profitability of production agriculture.”
The committee suggested policy that opposes any cap and trade program which is detrimental to agriculture, as well as oppose any legislation that regulates carbon emissions. They also urged opposition to the use, selling, buying or trading of carbon credits. Also in regards to climate change legislation, committee members opposed any “greenhouse gas” legislation until other countries meet or exceed U.S. requirements, and opposed any effort to tax, regulate or limit agricultural production based on perceived pollutants.
At the state level, committee members took a hard look at property taxes and property appraisals.
“After our experiences with eminent domain, property seems to be the thing at risk—either by takings or taxes,” Nedbalek said. “Fortunately, Texas Farm Bureau had some good policy in place. A lot of the discussion fine-tunes to meet demands of the changing attitudes of the public.”
The Texas Farm Bureau Resolutions Committee is composed of members representing all 13 Texas Farm Bureau districts. It reviews and consolidates proposed policies submitted from county Farm Bureaus throughout the state. Now, it will be up to some 1,100 voting delegates, who will gather for TFB’s 76th Annual Meeting in Fort Worth Dec. 5-7, to approve or reject the resolutions.
In other action, committee members proposed that convention delegates consider:
• Reaffirming a belief that the right to capture groundwater is a “vested private property right.” That is a value Farm Bureau has always held dear, but it has never been stated so directly in policy.
• Support for financial or other financial incentives to increase the number of large animal veterinarians.
• Support for permanent repeal of federal estate taxes, and until permanent repeal is achieved, support increasing the exemption to $3.5 million or greater per person and indexing to inflation, and support a full, unlimited stepped-up basis at death in an estate tax reform.
Resolutions adopted at the Texas Farm Bureau state convention become policy that guides the organization throughout the coming year. Those resolutions approved by AFBF delegates in January will provide a roadmap for the national organization in 2010.