The farm and ranch families of rural Texas face a crucial time of great risk—and abundant opportunity—the president of Texas Farm Bureau said during his address at the organization’s 77thannual convention.

“It is a time of potential danger and enormous expectations, a time of great challenge and potential reward,” TFB President Kenneth Dierschke said. “It’s a time to reclaim the good name of farmers and ranchers that some seek to destroy, a time for leadership and commitment, a time for positive change.”

Dierschke addressed the TFB’s assembly of delegates here in the hometown of Texas Farm Bureau. He recognized a year of remarkable achievement, noting the organization today has over 450,000 member families, and acknowledged the hard work that lies ahead in both Austin and Washington, D.C.

Eminent domain

Eminent domain reform remains the number one priority of the organization’s members. Over the past two sessions, reform legislation failed to become law despite overwhelming public and legislative support. Similar legislation has already been pre-filed for the upcoming session.

“We understand that eminent domain reform will be designated as an emergency item, assuring quick passage,” Dierschke said. “Governor Perry has promised his signature on a bill we have already agreed upon. With the passage of meaningful eminent domain reform, Texans can say with pride that property rights here are now a fact—not rhetoric. Without Farm Bureau’s devotion to achieving this goal, it would not have happened.”

The 2011 session could also yield some landmark decisions on water policy. At stake are cornerstones of Texas water law such as right of capture, local control and historical use. All will be up for debate.

Recent election results will provide yet another challenge. There will be a massive influx of freshmen members on Capitol Hill. In Texas, too, many new faces will grace the House chambers.

Explain agriculture

“We must explain the importance of agriculture to the nation. The ability of America to feed and clothe itself—without depending on foreign nations—is not about left or right,” Dierschke said. “It’s not a political viewpoint. It’s about the cold, hard reality of keeping enough farmers and ranchers on the land to do the job.”

Opening trade with Cuba, immigration reform and the 2012 farm bill will be on the agenda as the new Congress convenes, as will the need to address a ballooning budget deficit.     

“Clearly, all segments of the budget are subject to cuts. We cannot expect that agriculture be spared,” Dierschke stressed to the delegates. “But, if we think of the federal budget as a gigantic, gas-guzzling SUV, doing completely away with payments to farmers would scarcely scratch the paint. We’re talking about less than one-half of one percent of the federal budget.”

Dierschke noted the ever-increasing attacks on the image of agriculture from extremist groups. He stressed that an overwhelming majority of farmers and ranchers hold high standards of animal welfare and don’t condone or defend animal abuse. He also said that farm and ranch families hold themselves to a high standard in taking care of the land, air and water of rural America.

Dierschke encouraged TFB members to defend agriculture and to stand their ground against those who deal in false information or encourage overregulation.

“There have been growing pains as we’ve adapted to these changes in agriculture and in our membership.  But we represent them all—and more,” Dierschke said. “These changes are not to be feared, but embraced as a way to make Farm Bureau better, bigger, stronger and even more capable of meeting the challenges that face rural Texas. This is Farm Bureau’s time, a time to make a difference for Texas and America.”