American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says his organization is eager to work with the new Congress and President-elect Barack Obama’s new administration to do whatever it takes to help get the country back on its feet.

Speaking at a press conference prior to the AFBF’s annual meeting in San Antonio, Stallman said America’s farmers and the country as a whole face many challenges that must be dealt with as soon as President Obama takes office Jan. 20.

“President-elect Obama has told us he wants discussion and constructive debate,” said Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Columbus, Texas. “He wants a healthy agricultural economy and he likes decisions based on science. That is good news for Farm Bureau and agriculture.”

Stallman told farm editors he had a direct message for the incoming U.S. president: “We, the farmers and ranchers of Farm Bureau, are ready to roll up our sleeves and move forward. We feed the nation, and no matter which national priority – the economy, energy, immigration, trade and environment – that you choose to pursue, we are ready to hit the ground running.”

Stallman said one of the biggest issues that Farm Bureau members want to see addressed is the need for a reliable supply of legal workers willing to work in agriculture.

“Too many of our current workers are unfortunately caught up in an immigration system that is broken,” Stallman said. “And too often, farmers face the consequences. We urge Congress to enact meaningful immigration reform for agriculture now.”

Stallman also called for a new start on global trade negotiations. The World Trade Organization has been unable to make any significant progress on the Doha Round negotiations following their collapse in Geneva last July.

“Clearly, the Doha Round talks have stalled,” he said. “Trade must be a tool for economic growth and not an excuse for erecting new barriers. We will work with any partner ready to find a new path forward to create real trade growth and development. Trade talks must focus on increasing trade, not preventing it.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule dealing with manure management on concentrated animal feeding operations also must be addressed. “We are challenging the rule in court based on our belief that EPA has exceeded its authority to regulate livestock farms under the Clean Water Act,” Stallman noted.

Members of Congress and the new administration are setting their sights on climate change, and Stallman said farmers and ranchers will be active in the debate.

“Where science indicates a real risk or harm, we will play our part in reducing or eliminating that risk,” he said. “We also will caution lawmakers to make sure that science is not hijacked by those with a particular policy agenda.”

Stallman renewed the call for a comprehensive energy plan that embraces all aspects of the nation’s energy needs.

“I am proud to say that we successfully advocated for a strong energy title in the farm bill, part of which was to aid in the transition to cellulosic-based renewable energy,” he said. “Ag-based energy such as biofuels, wind and electricity from waste digesters are capable of powering an important share of our nation’s renewable energy future.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation is beginning its 90th year of representing the nation’s farmers and ranchers. The group’s annual meeting will continue through Wednesday, Jan. 14.

email: flaws@farmpress.com