Issues impacting the livestock and poultry industries are at the forefront of Kentucky agriculture's agenda for 2011, Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney said in a keynote address at the organization's 91st annual meeting.

Haney, a Pulaski County farmer completing his second year as president of the state's largest farm organization, said the development of federal rules for tracing animal diseases and regulating marketing contracts between farmers and buyers are important to the state's producers. Another issue, he added, is assuring that all farmers have access to a system to remove dead stock from their farms.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with the states on a system for traceability of livestock moved in interstate commerce. The aim is to ensure a rapid response to disease outbreaks.

A viable system also will provide consumers with further assurances of a safe supply of food, Haney told the KFB members.

"We cannot afford glitches in the processing and distribution systems," Haney said. "Food safety problems always impact the farm economy. We should support safeguards to ensure that the commodities we produce become safe food products."

In an effort to establish equitable marketing conditions — particularly in the beef cattle sector — the Grain Inspections, Packers and Stockyards Administration is working on guidelines for regulating contracts between producers and buyers.

While those issues are national in scope, Kentucky has a problem with dead stock removal in several areas of the state which do not have access to a hauling service.

Farm bill deliberations

Noting that deliberations are expected to begin for the 2012 farm bill, Haney warned that farmers "might have to make do with less" because of the federal budget deficit.

"Our country faces dire economic problems that no doubt will impact our children and grandchildren if we don't get a handle on the situation," Haney said to an audience of more than 1,200 farmers from throughout Kentucky. "Our nation's debt and budget deficit are staggering. This threatens to collapse our economy.

"In developing a position for the next farm bill, sacrifices must be made. We can't embrace the popular view that our share is sacred and it is others who must take the pain. If we're going to solve this crisis, everyone must bite the bullet."

Haney also urged members to take an active stance against special interest groups that have been attacking agriculture on issues like animal welfare, food safety and the environment.

"This non-stop criticism of contemporary agriculture is something we must take seriously," he said. "It is vital to communicate about our values and how we continue to produce safe and affordable food in a humane and environmentally-friendly manner.

"We must not let the activists and self-appointed food experts drive a wedge between us. We cannot be idle when others are seeking to reshape our industry to fulfill their idea of how agriculture should look. We must do a better job of telling our story"

The KFB leader also expressed appreciation to county leaders for helping the organization reach the 500,000-member level this year. He described the achievement as "a landmark event in our storied history."