Delegates at the 91st American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting voted to oppose cap-and-trade climate legislation and to support balancing the federal budget over the next eight years.

The delegates approved a special resolution stating that cap-and-trade legislation would raise farmers’ and ranchers’ production costs, and the potential benefits of agricultural offsets are far outweighed by the costs to producers. Due to these and other concerns, the delegates strongly opposed “cap and trade proposals before Congress” and supported “any legislative action that would suspend EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.”

“As Congress returns to the issue of cap-and-trade this year, the message of Farm Bureau will continue to be: ‘Don’t Cap Our Future’ agricultural productivity and food security,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We will now send that message even more strongly.”

“Congress should focus on renewable energy that is better for the environment and our domestic energy security,” he added, “but it should not tie the hands of U.S. producers, whose productivity, historically, has provided the world’s food safety net. We should not shrink U.S. agriculture at the very time when many are concerned about how to feed a growing global population.”

Stallman was re-elected as AFBF president for a sixth two-year term. He is a cattle and rice producer from Columbus, Texas, and previously served as Texas Farm Bureau president. In addition, Barry Bushue was re-elected to a second two-year term as AFBF vice president. Bushue is a berry and nursery plant producer from Boring, Ore., and also serves as Oregon Farm Bureau president. Both re-elections were unanimous.

The delegates said the federal deficit should be reduced each year, reaching a fully balanced budget by 2019. They said that federal spending on government services and entitlements must be reduced.

“Unless we want to saddle our children and grandchildren with a crippling debt to foreign governments,” said Stallman, “we have to get the federal budget under control. We are looking at a current deficit of more than a trillion dollars. The United States must tighten its belt and we all must make sacrifices in order for the U.S. to maintain economic security.”

The delegates also called for meaningful relief from the estate tax, with no conditions or qualifications. They said that an increase in the overall exemption would be Farm Bureau’s main priority. They also reaffirmed their support for full stepped-up basis at the time of death in order to reduce the capital gains tax burden on farm and ranch heirs. Also on taxes, the delegates opposed the imposition of any health-related taxes on foods or beverages.

The delegates approved policy supporting changes to the Federal Milk Marketing Order structure, formulas and price classes used to compute milk prices, in order for those prices to reflect current market conditions, enhance transparency and account for regional differences in the cost of milk production. However, they rejected dairy supply management as a means to bolster dairy product prices, saying that Farm Bureau remains supportive of a market-oriented dairy program.

On farm policy, the delegates affirmed their support for the current farm program and continued their support for a mandatory country-of-origin labeling program, as enacted in the 2008 farm bill. They also called for a workable ad hoc disaster program and approved a new policy calling for a specialty crops title in future farm bills, along with additional research programs and promotion of U.S. specialty crops.

In response to media mislabeling of the H1N1 virus as “swine flu” and the severe impact that has had on pork demand, the delegates urged the news media to use the correct scientific terminology in referring to animal and plant health issues.

At this AFBF annual meeting, 369 voting delegates representing every state and agricultural commodity deliberated on policies affecting farmers’ and ranchers’ productivity and profitability. The policies approved at the annual meeting will guide the national farm organization’s legislative and regulatory efforts throughout 2010.

In addition to voting for president and vice-president, the delegates elected two state Farm Bureau presidents to the AFBF board of directors: Bob Hanson of Montana was elected to a full two-year term for the Western region, and Dean Norton of New York was elected to fill an unexpired term for one year in the Northeast region.

Fourteen other state Farm Bureau presidents were re-elected to represent their regions on the AFBF board of directors:

Midwest region — Steve Baccus, Kansas; Charles Kruse, Missouri; Philip Nelson, Illinois; and Scott VanderWal, South Dakota.

Northeast region — Ed Jestice Jr., Delaware, and Richard Nieuwenhuis, New Jersey.

Southern region — Mark Haney, Kentucky; John Hoblick, Florida; Jerry Newby, Alabama; Wayne Pryor, Virginia; Randy Veach, Arkansas; David Waide, Mississippi; and David Winkles, South Carolina.

Western region — Leland Hogan, Utah.

Will Gilmer, a young dairy producer from Alabama, was elected the new chairman of the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee, which also makes him a member of the AFBF board of directors during his one-year term.

Terry Gilbert of Kentucky continues to serve as chair of the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee and on the AFBF board of directors. Committee members Isabella Chism of Indiana, Frances Prices of South Carolina, Beth Pool of New Jersey and Margene Harris of New Mexico were re-elected to the committee for two-year terms.