Rural leaders across the country face similar issues.
By DeLoss Jahnke
Regulations and private-property rights were two of the major discussion points during an interview with Farm Bureau leaders last week in Bloomington.
In this case, though, the issues weren’t discussed by Illinois members; it was a group of four Farm Bureau presidents from northwestern states.
In recent years, farmers in Oregon and other states have lost land to claims by the federal government for purposes such as national monuments.
“We’re talking millions of acres,” said Barry Bushue, president of Oregon Farm Bureau, who for eight years was vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“To have the federal government take that over and basically run folks out of their farms that had been there for generations was not in the best interests of the economics of the state,” Bushue continued. “Nor was it in the best interests of private-property rights of the folks that actually owned and ran farms and ranches there.”
In Washington, state president Mike LaPlant said farmers are competing against state government for farmland. Their department of natural resources had used funds from the timber business to help provide funds for schools and other services.
“The timber harvesting has ground to a halt,” LaPlant said. “Now they’re turning their efforts to purchase farmland for income generating; rent it out in long-term leases.”
LaPlant said the state’s purchasing power makes it difficult for farmers to obtain farmland of their own.
In Alaska, president Bryce Wrigley said the biggest challenge is being recognized for opportunities that agriculture can provide.
“Our state is very heavily dependent on oil and gas,” Wrigley said. “Any swings in that really affects the state’s economy. So we’ve been trying to get a more diversified approach. I think that the institutional understanding that America has for agriculture doesn’t exist in Alaska.”
He said that has been a challenge with both lawmaking and rulemaking policies from elected officials and agencies. “They don’t into account the impact on agriculture, and especially a developing agriculture.”
Nevada Farm Bureau President Hank Combs said in a state where the population is so concentrated in Las Vegas and Reno, representation will always be a challenge.
“I will say, though, that the Las Vegas legislators are very interested in what ag is providing; it’s the third-largest industry in the state,” Combs said. “So in some cases, they are very willing to learn and be educated.”
Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.