IFB supports AFBF trade dispute policy

Much-debated language calls for negotiation - not tariffs.

Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President Brian Duncan addresses members during policy discussion at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention. (AFBF photo)

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Farm Bureau this week supported new national farm policy that calls for trade disputes to be resolved through negotiation – not tariffs.

Minnesota Farm Bureau proposed the new language, which was refined by IFB during American Farm Bureau Federation’s business meeting in New Orleans. Then Arkansas Farm Bureau proposed striking the language altogether. 

Randy Veach, Arkansas Farm Bureau president, said the administration should have flexibility in trade negotiations.

“We need every arrow that we can get in our quiver,” Veach said.

IFB Vice President Brian Duncan urged delegates to keep the language in the policy book. Missouri, North Carolina and Iowa members also spoke in support of the policy. 

“We have a long history of policy in this organization supporting a rules-based approach to resolving trade disputes,” Duncan said. “We’ve worked hard for 40 years to put rules in place in the WTO, NAFTA and other agreements that provide an orderly method of resolving disputes. We have reams of policy that speak to that.”

Daryl Leis from North Dakota questioned those who wanted to keep the language in the policy book.

“Tell me how you get someone to negotiate if you don’t have every tool in the toolbox,” he said. “Are you going to invite them for pie and ice cream? Is China going to respond to that? Or any other country going to respond to that? …  Now, tariffs are not the correct answer, but they may be necessary at times – or the threat of them – to get them to the table.”

IFB District 13 Director Dennis Green said tariffs should be a “last resort – not something you do to get somebody to the table.” 

“When you work out a deal everybody benefits in the long run, and that’s what we need to continue to do,” Green said.

The motion to delete the language failed by a vote of 114-225.

AFBF delegates also approved IFB-introduced language that supports improving the 8-1-1 internet-based location service.

The proposal was prompted by a pipeline explosion in northern Illinois that look the lives of Rory and Ryan Miller in December 2017.

“We bring this policy to address the challenge in the 8-1-1 internet-based location service,” said Jeff Kirwan, IFB District 3 director. “Currently, we don’t get whole fields identified, we can only get addresses, streets and roads. … What we’re asking for is for field boundaries to be recognized by the 8-1-1 location system.”

In all, a total of 352 delegates from across the country set policy, including 21 from Illinois. The policies adopted and reaffirmed last week will serve as AFBF’s roadmap for 2019.

Delegates also approved the following Illinois submittals:

- Reform for health savings accounts (HSA), which repeals caps on annual maximum contributions, eliminates the high-deductible health plan mandate from HSA eligibility requirements and allows HSA funds to be used for health insurance premiums. The proposal originated from IFB’s Local and State Government Strength With Advisory Team and was approved by IFB delegates in December.

- Opposing creation of a federal vehicle mileage tax, which would tax motorists based upon the number of miles driven.

- A recommendation, which originated with Pike-Scott Farm Bureau, that called on AFBF’s Board of Directors last week to develop a national legal advocacy strategy.

- Supporting use of the Design-Build project delivery method or other innovative construction strategies.

- Defining “organic” as a production standard set by USDA’s National Organic Program for marketing label use.