A Farm Bill call to action
“The must-pass bills for 2023 are the debt ceiling (in June or July), appropriations/budget (which they keep kicking the can down the road), the National Defense Authorization and FAA Reauthorization (which will be easy) and the Farm Bill.” So explained Sam Kieffer, American Farm Bureau Federation vice president of public relations, at the recent Fusion conference in Jacksonville.
Kieffer was part of a panel discussing the 2023 Farm Bill along with Danny Munch, AFBF economist, and Cody Lyon, managing director of AFBF’s Advocacy and Political Affairs programs.
“There are 260 lawmakers – nearly 50% of them – who have never been a part of a Farm Bill,” Kieffer continued. “They need to understand what’s in it, why it matters and why it needs to pass this year.” He added that the Senate and the House need to keep this bill bipartisan due to small majorities in both.
During his keynote address the day following this session, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall stated, “Make sure every one of those 260 get a visit from one of y’all.”
In total, the Farm Bill has 12 titles, and it’s one of the most impactful pieces of legislation in the world, according to Kieffer. Titles 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 11 are priorities. On fb.org/farmbill, the organization breaks down the Farm Bureau priorities.
“We understand the cost of production has increased. We’re a fiscally conservative organization but we understand the need to increase baseline funding commitments,” Kieffer said. “And the changes need to be permanent, not just kicking the can down the road. We also need adequate USDA staffing.”
Addressing the economic outlook was Munch. He noted that while 2022 was a record year for net farm income, 2023 is looking at an estimated $20 billion decrease.
More bad news: “We’ll likely see another 4% increase in production expenses this year but a 6% decrease in livestock receipts and declines in commodities too,” he said. (Wheat is holding steady, however, likely due to the situation in Ukraine.)
And in a good news/bad news situation, he reported ag land value was up about 12% in 2022, averaging $3,800/acre. That’s good for those looking to get out but bad for those looking to expand.
Munch suggested farmers use Farm Bureau’s Market Intel newsletter, which is released about once a week with the latest data, to stay informed on all the economic information.
Farm Bureau has a strategy for advocating for this Farm Bill, starting with information, intelligence and analysis (including meetings with committees, message development and meetings with stakeholders).
Next is education (with participation at hearings and listening sessions and meetings with lawmakers, especially those new members of Congress), followed by persuasion (with targeted advertising to key members of Congress, fly-ins and in-district meetings and digital advertising).
The final bit of strategy is engagement, to ensure passage of the bill in the House and Senate, utilizing advance advocacy tactics and involvement with partners and stakeholders.
“Meet with your members of Congress, especially the newer ones,” Lyon reiterated. “Build relationships to become a resource to them. Attend Farm Bureau meetings and events. And remember that in-person meetings are the most influential.”
by Courtney Llewellyn
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