|I. Special Agricultural Policies and Services|
1. Farm Labor
We support passage and implementation of the AgJOBS legislation.
We encourage Congress to continue funding existing programs and establish new grant initiatives that aim to improve the supply, stability and training of the agricultural labor force.
The National Labor Relations Act should be extended to workers on corporate and other farms that employ enough hired help to be subject to the federal minimum wage provisions applicable to agricultural workers.
We support enforcement of the following labor standards:
a) Worker protection standards regarding wage rates, health, safety and housing conditions for migrant, seasonal, minority and other farm laborers and for education of their children;
b) Allow the rights of workers to bargain collectively for fair wages;
c) Provide a livable minimum wage; and
d) Protect the rights of entitlement program recipients, such as those on Social Security, to have their benefits reflect increases in the costs of living.
Agriculture has been determined to be a hazardous occupation in the United States. Farm machinery is not subject to federal safety regulations or recalls but is instead manufactured according to voluntary standards set by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.
a) Farmers take advantage of training opportunities, including pesticide applicator programs, as often as possible;
b) Farm equipment manufacturers be subject to rules requiring product safety, and that manufacturers be liable for damages suffered due to injuries caused by faulty equipment;
c) Farmers and their employees have access to information regarding hazardous materials used on the farm;
d) Farmers maintain adequate records on their transportation, use, storage and disposal of fertilizers and pesticides;
e) Farmers and small businesses have a voice in assuring that rules implementing the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, established for the protection of those employed by farmers and small business persons, are reasonable and workable. This assures that OSHA requirements are within the reasonable financial reach of farms and businesses affected, that the penalties are not excessive, and that reasonable periods of time are allowed for compliance;
f) Congress provide for continued exemption of small farms and businesses that have 10 or fewer employees from the inspection provisions of the law;
g) Farm families exercise reasonable care and to promote the safety of themselves and their families; and
h) Developing International Labor Organization (ILO) standards that adequately protect the health and safety of children.
a) Federal Warehouse Act
We support the right of individual states to regulate the grain merchandising activities of warehouses licensed by the federal government under the Grain Standards and Warehouse Improvement Act of 2000 (USWA). NFU will oppose federal preemption of state regulatory authority over grain merchandising unless:
1. Federal regulation includes appropriate and effective oversight of federally licensed warehouse and merchandising activities;
2. Modifications to federal warehouse and merchandising activities that may have an impact on producers are proposed and adopted through public rulemaking procedures rather than the annual licensing process;
3. Producers are provided a protection program funded by the warehouse and merchandising industry against losses from warehouse and merchandising company insolvencies and bankruptcies at no less than:
a. 100 percent in the case of warehouse receipted stored grain and grain sold for payment within 30 days of delivery, and
b. $750,000 for each commodity stored, delivered or contracted within 31-365 days of delivery;
4. Limitations on the level of licensing flexibility provided to grain warehouses and merchandisers are enacted to ensure it does not result in a reduction in existing financial protections for producers; and
5. States’ ability to fund operations and inventory transactions, liquidity and maintain “weights-and-measures” regulations are protected.
We further urge that each state provide supplemental guarantees beyond any federal maximum. Congress should take whatever action is necessary to ensure that stored commodities shall remain the property of those persons who delivered them for storage. Warehouses should be required to issue negotiable warehouse receipts upon request, at a cost not to exceed the dump charge.
b) Ag Merchandiser or Supplier Bankruptcies and Receiverships
Farmers should be given first position priority in ag merchandiser or supplier bankruptcies and receiverships, including commodities priced under deferred price and delayed payment contracts.
c) Commodity Basis
Basis should reflect the cost of transportation and storage from the point of local delivery to the point of terminal delivery and it is not to be used as a risk mitigation tool for the grain merchandiser. We call for oversight by the appropriate federal agency and/or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to investigate abuses of the basis levels.
Census data is useful in designing farm programs and defending and promoting the interests of family-sized farm operations. The census of agriculture provides data that shows the trends in the agricultural economy of each county and state and for the nation. NFU encourages the following relative to the census of agriculture:
a) Continued to be conducted every five years;
b) Opposition to efforts to increase the minimum financial criteria for classifying agricultural operations;
c) Continued collection of needed data relating to corporate involvement in agriculture and coordination with information collected on foreign involvement in the purchase of farmland and agricultural enterprises to more clearly reflect the pattern of ownership and management of U.S. agriculture; and
d) Opposition to USDA using information obtained in the census in a manner that is detrimental to family farmers and ranchers.
We support a voluntary checkoff, with producer participation determined at the point of sale. Our support for producer-financed commodity research and promotion programs is determined by the extent to which producers who are actively involved in production agriculture control the programs.
NFU will support programs financed from the proceeds of sales by producers of agricultural commodities, only if the following criteria are met:
a) Research and promotion programs are for the sole financial benefit of domestic family farmers;
b) Disbursement of funds collected is controlled solely by boards of non-processing domestic producers elected by the domestic producers assessed, and the operations of the program are solely controlled by those domestic producer boards;
c) Members of national producer-funded boards shall be nominated and elected by producers, with the election process supervised by FSA, and nominations and balloting conducted by mail;
d) It shall be mandatory that all eligible producers be provided a ballot by FSA for all elections and referendums;
e) Approval is by 60 percent of producers voting in a referendum by mail prior to implementation of the order, with spouses allowed to vote individually, and no bloc voting allowed;
f) The outcome of producer referendums should be determined solely on the basis of one vote per person;
g) Changes in levies and administrative and operational procedures should be submitted to producers affected and subject to approval by a simple majority vote;
h) Periodic review referendums should be financed and conducted by the federal government every fifth year, with no producer funds used to influence the voters. A simple majority of producers voting in a referendum shall be able to recall a commodity checkoff program. USDA shall make available the total number of producers;
i) When an assessment is collected from U.S. producers of a commodity, an equal non-refundable fee should continue to be assessed on foreign imports of that commodity, in either raw or manufactured form. Any special provisions extended to U.S regions, remote states or territories should not be extended to imported products;
j) The assessment should also be collected from those integrators who are currently exempted by virtue of being in a vertically integrated operation;
k) Periodic independent, outside evaluations and audits should be conducted to ensure that the benefits of the program outweigh the costs to producers, with copies of the audits available to all who pay the assessments;
l) Procedures should be provided to enable producers to immediately obtain refunds of the research and promotion funds they were assessed;
m) Research funds generated through producer assessments should not be used as a substitute for publicly generated research funding;
n) Farmers and ranchers have the right to designate the use of the checkoff dollars he or she contributes for research, promotion, expanded cooperative development or nutrition programs and food banks;
o) Prohibiting the use of dairy producers’ checkoff money to conduct research into the use of casein and/or MPCs in the making of cheese and other dairy products, or to promote anything other than U.S.-produced natural dairy products;
p) Mandatory producer assessments should not go to organizations that engage in lobbying. No funds should be donated or contracts provided to organizations that carry out political or lobbying activities or to their shared staff, even if records are kept which separate their activity. Severe criminal penalties should be assessed for using funds for personal, political or lobbying activities;
q) The payment of a mandatory commodity checkoff must not constitute membership in a producer organization; and
r) Producer-funded research should remain the property of the producers. Patents granted as a result of the research should also belong to the producers. Royalties collected should be returned to the producers’ research fund.
Our nation’s grain standards fail to reward producers for production of clean, higher-quality grain. The current standards provide a wide margin for manipulation by grain buyers and processors through blending and other devices. The grade limitations are arbitrary, permitting buyers to establish large discounts on factors that are not necessarily related to real differences in the value of a given commodity. Our grain standards also fail to identify many quality characteristics related to the actual end-use value of the commodity.
a) Producers receiving a premium for higher quality grain;
b) Regulation or legislation that provides a consistent grading and moisture discount scale that is monitored and enforced at the local elevator or mill; and
c) An overhaul of our nation’s grain standards so our producers can more effectively compete in world markets based on the quality of their production.
Revised standards should:
a) Reward positive actions taken by producers, such as genetic improvement and sound grain-handling practices;
b) Establish grade and non-grade factors that can be commonly understood and mutually determined by producers and end-users;
c) Adopt dry-matter grading by the grain trade as a better and fairer way of compensating the grower for the grain delivered to the elevator;
d) Be implemented in such a manner that the grade determined at the time of the initial sale is consistent with the grade received by the end-user;
e) Ensure testing standards that reflect actual grain quality; and
f) Establish standardized tests that are accurate and reproducible.
We reaffirm our position for high standards in grain inspection and support the weighing system as authorized under the original Federal Grain Inspection Act.
To protect and improve our reputation as exporters of U.S. commodities, we support legislation that would:
a) Prohibit and penalize exporters adding foreign material or moisture to any commodity for overseas shipment;
b) Require export customers to pay for shipments on a clean-grain basis, just as farmers are paid on a clean-grain basis;
c) Provide grain inspection personnel to spot check U.S. grain at foreign ports to determine whether it is of the same kind, class, quantity and condition that was certified upon shipment;
d) Prohibit the imposition of user fees for the inspection and grading of agricultural commodities. Federal inspection and grading of such commodities is in the public interest and should not be charged to the producer;
e) Continue to investigate grain companies as to the total pricing system and any quality discounts such as those for protein schedules, test schedules, DON (vomitoxin) levels, falling numbers and scab; and
f) Prohibit privatization of grain export inspections.
NFU recognizes the need for integrity and accountability in the federal inspection services. The USDA must re-establish credibility without adding to grower or packer costs by implementing the following:
a) Checks and balances to discover and address infractions that interfere with transaction fairness;
b) Stiff penalties on violators;
c) Improved supervision and auditing; and
d) Identification and prosecution of violators.
USDA should provide accurate income statistics for farmers and ranchers. Separation of income levels for producers, landlords and integrators would permit more accurate net farm incomes in USDA’s farm projections.
Aerial land maps are vital to producers for proximate land use, sale and productivity. These maps should be made available by USDA to the public for the gain of the producer.
We oppose charging user fees for formerly free USDA reports and information or supplying them only on a paid basis by computer.
NFU recognizes the growing importance of organic family farming. Organic farming is a management-intensive method of production, not merely a list of acceptable or prohibited materials, designed to achieve a balance in the agricultural and livestock system similar to that found in natural systems.
a) The enforcement and monitoring of the national organic standards promulgated by USDA;
b) Ensuring accreditation and certification costs do not discriminate against small producers, including support and funding for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program;
c) Requiring USDA to maintain the role of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) as the official source of developing policies and procedures to interpret and implement the federal organic standards. Adequate staffing must be provided to enable the NOSB to fulfill its obligation to organic producers;
d) Maintaining organic livestock production standards that are uniform and account for feeding and animal health care practices for continuous or transitional organic management;
e) Prohibiting genetically modified organisms, irradiation and the use of sewage sludge that contains heavy metals;
f) Protecting organic producers from chemical and/or genetic pollution and provide reasonable redress for any damage caused by this drift; and
g) USDA negotiating trade arrangements to eliminate the need for National Organic Program (NOP)-certified U.S. farmers to certify through multiple international agencies.
11. Genetically Modified Organisms and Biotechnology (also see Article I. D. Labeling of Commodities and Commodity Products)
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have created a series of ethical, environmental, food safety, legal, market and structural issues that impact everyone in the food chain. Consumer and producer concerns need to be addressed.
We acknowledge concerns that biotechnology is being used as a trade barrier. We respect all nations’ sovereignty and food policies and thus urge open dialogue, cooperation and understanding in trade negotiations relating to biotechnology. We support:
a) The development of new GMO traits when issues of cross-pollination, liability, commodity and seed stock segregation and market acceptance are objectively addressed and fairly resolved for the protection of all producers and consumers. While biotech traits are under patent, the patent holder should be prepared to indemnify its trait users against financial burdens caused by claims;
b) Research conducted in an environmentally secure facility being exempt from the above requirements. Research conducted in open fields production should be subject to mandatory public disclosure of: persons or entities initiating the research, location of test sites, specific species and traits involved and the characteristics of the intended resultant genetically modified plant to be created;
c) Legislation to prohibit the patenting of heritage seed and animal and biological genetics;
d) Legislation to prohibit the development of terminator technology in any form;
e) The right of farmers to plant seed derived from proprietary organisms on their own land;
f) New products involving GMOs be certified as safe by the FDA in testing done independently of the patent holder, before being allowed on the market. Such testing is to be done at the expense of the specific patent holders seeking to market such products;
g) Legislation requiring that patent holders or owners of GMO technology be held strictly liable for damages caused by genetic trespass including safety, health, economic and environmental effects. Farmers are not to be held liable for food safety, human health or environmental problems, including cross pollination, related to the use of GMOs as long as generally accepted crop production practices are followed;
h) Congressional action to regulate the biotech industry’s technology agreements. Farmers should not have to sign away their fundamental rights, including but not limited to a jury of their peers in court, in exchange for the privilege of growing biotech crops. Grievances should be settled in the home state of the farmer, not the state of the biotech corporation;
i) Any damages caused to farmers through lower prices, lost markets or contamination shall be fully reimbursed to farmers, including legal fees, by the company producing the genetically modified product;
j) All data used in the analysis of the health and environmental effects of GMOs be public record, and that criminal penalties be established for the willful withholding or altering of such data;
k) Prohibiting government regulatory agencies from licensing genetically modified products that are not acceptable for both human consumption and animal feed;
l) Until USDA and FDA improve oversight and regulation of pharma crops, NFU cannot endorse or support pharma farming based on economic, environmental, food safety and liability risks to producers and consumers;
m) Requiring government regulatory agencies and input suppliers to ensure that farmers are informed of all potential market risks and segregation requirements associated with planting any licensed genetically modified crop;
n) Government regulatory agencies shall consider domestic and foreign consumer acceptance of the product when licensing;
o) Requiring all GMO seed to be clearly labeled with the following information:
1. Markets (foreign or domestic) where the product is not accepted, and
2. All planting restrictions;
p) Development of a verification system and a storage, transportation and marketing plan to aid farmers with non-GMO grains;
q) Identity-preserved systems and insist they receive protection from cross-contamination; and
r) The development and implementation of patent rules, legislation (i.e. the Hatch-Waxman Act for pharmaceuticals) or regulations which promote and maintain free market competition in regard to generic production.
We support modification of “The Plant Variety Protection Act of 1994” in the area of royalty fees, taking into consideration a reasonable period of time for specific commodities and based on scientific methods.
We support immunity from legal action for grain handlers from consequences of “The Plant Variety Protection Act” when handling grain without a fee.
We urge U.S. ratification of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. We support three key tenets of the treaty, including:
a) Enhancing and diversifying the genome and plant genetic resources pools;
b) Recognizing farmers’ contributions to the development and conservation of plant genetic resources by protecting farmers’ rights, including the right to save seed; and
c) Keeping public research and research results in the public domain and protected from acquisition by corporations or other private entities to develop their own products derived from public research genetic pools.
We support the testing of all agricultural tractors above 40 horsepower (HP) in approved Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) laboratories for sale in the United States. We support the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory, the only U.S.-approved OECD laboratory and the unbiased, third-party testing information that it provides at little or no cost to U.S. farmers so they can make informed buying decisions.
2014 NFU Convention
"Spicing Up Family Agriculture"
March 8-11, 2014
Santa Fe, N.M.
Click here for details