The National Farmers Union (NFU) 2015 Fall Legislative Fly-In commenced this morning with briefings by top officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) followed by meetings with White House officials, members of Congress and staff from both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Agriculture.
“This fall has proven to be a very important time for several Farmers Union issues, including the path forward for voluntary Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), the full implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as well as several trade-related issues,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Fly-in allows family farmers and ranchers whose lives and livelihoods are shaped by these policies to come to the nation’s capital to make clear that their voices are heard.”
Farmers Union has been holding Fly-Ins for generations; with the only real change being the mode of transportation used by family farmers to come to Washington. This year, roughly 275 Farmers Union members have gathered in Washington for the fly-in. They will all be briefed today by various elected and administration officials and then will spend the next two days visiting the offices of every member of Congress to highlight the priorities of Farmers Union and family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and consumers.
“Family farmers and ranchers have enormous credibility with the public, and they are by far the most effective folks to deliver messages about issues of importance in rural America to our elected officials,” said Johnson.
Johnson noted that one of NFU’s signature issues, COOL, faces repeal due to retaliation threats through the World Trade Organization by Canada and Mexico. “For those who genuinely care about food labeling, the voluntary COOL bill in the Senate, the Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Trade Enhancement Act of 2015, is the only legislative game in town.”
Farmers Union members are also concerned about a stalling of the RFS by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has prevented the RFS from meeting the targets set forth in the law’s statute. “The RFS has already made significant gains for family farmers, rural communities, consumers and the environment, and the EPA needs to stick to statutory levels for the RFS to continue these successes.”
Fly-in participants will also speak with their elected officials about several major trade issues moving through Congress, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). “NFU has long been concerned about the impact that trade agreements have on our sovereign rights as a nation,” said Johnson. “First and foremost, all future trade agreements – including TPP – should seek to achieve an overall balance of payments, eliminate our trade deficits and reduce our foreign debt,” he said.
Johnson also noted that NFU has long supported full restoration of trade with Cuba, and thanked the administration for taking steps to make that goal possible. “We applaud the Obama administration for tossing the failed embargo policy in the trash bin of history and hope that we can achieve full restoration of trade and an end to the travel ban soon,” he said.
Another issue that is causing a great deal of anxiety in rural America is the decision to allow beef imports from Northern Argentina and more than half the states in Brazil, Foot and Mouth Disease hotspots. “Thankfully, Congress has proposed putting the brakes on this risky move through the appropriations process and America’s family farmers and ranchers are very pleased with that decision,” said Johnson.
NFU’s Fall Legislative Fly-In meetings and events will be held Sept. 16-18. For more information about Fly-In events, visit http://www.nfu.org/event/2015flyin.
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.