Nebraska Farm Bureau delegates will elect a new president for the state’s largest agricultural organization at the Farm Bureau annual meeting, set for Dec. 5 and 6 at Kearney’s Younes Convention Center.
Keith Olsen of Grant, Farm Bureau president since 2002, is not seeking re-election. Three Farm Bureau leaders are seeking the presidency:
• Steve Nelson of Axtell, currently first vice president of Nebraska Farm Bureau.
• Mark McHargue of Central City, currently second vice president of Nebraska Farm Bureau.
• Larry Hudkins of Malcolm, a former member of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
Delegates also will elect three members of the Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Sherry Vinton of Whitman, Jason Kvols of Laurel and Andy DeVries of Ogallala are seeking re-election. Other candidates for the presidency or board may be nominated just prior to the election, set for the afternoon of Dec. 6.
The Farm Bureau House of Delegates also will establish policy for the organization on state issues and recommend policy on national issues to the American Farm Bureau, which holds its national meeting in January. Delegate discussion is based on resolutions received from Nebraska’s County Farm Bureaus.
At the state level, the delegates will consider whether the state’s laws pertaining to commodity checkoffs should be updated. Farmers who grow crops and livestock pay a per-bushel or per-head tax that is used for research, education and promotion of the commodity.
Delegates will discuss whether the current checkoff amounts provide enough resources to accomplish the goals of the checkoff programs; the relationship between the checkoff boards and state government; and relationships between checkoff boards and the corresponding grower association, Jay Rempe, Farm Bureau vice president/governmental relations, said Tuesday, Nov. 22.
“A few years, there was a suggestion that checkoff funds could be diverted to assist the state budget. The overwhelming view of our members is that the checkoffs should only be used for their intended purposes, so there will be discussions about the level of autonomy for the boards and a ‘firewall’ to protect the funds,” he said.
Conservation easements, particularly those that are perpetual, also are on the delegates’ agenda.
“There is concern about using public monies, such as from the Environment Trust Fund, to buy easements or land that is then restricted. This increases competition for farmland and may drive up prices,” Rempe said.
Resolutions from the County Farm Bureaus emphasize the need for landowners to fully understand easements before signing them, he said, and there is general opposition to allowing them to be perpetual.
Other delegate discussion topics include looking for ways to restructure county government for efficiency, support for assessing working farmsteads as agricultural land rather than as acreage sites; and support for exempting farmers and their agents from calling Diggers Hotline when they sample soil to a depth of four feet.
National issues before the delegates include discussion of the Farm Bill, which will likely be written in the usual manner because of the Super Committee’s failure to offer a budget reduction plan, Rempe said.
“There is a lot of support for crop insurance as the key component of a safety net for farmers. Direct payments will likely be eliminated, so there is concern for capturing some of those savings to fund a better crop insurance program or a risk management program of some type,” he said.
Resolutions from County Farm Bureaus also express continued support for the Conservation Reserve Program. Cutting CRP acres has been proposed to aid in deficit reduction and because of concern about having enough land available for crop production because of current short supplies, Rempe said.
Other convention events include Olsen’s final address to Farm Bureau members (Dec. 5, 10:30 a.m. CT); remarks from American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman (Dec. 5, 11:30 a.m. luncheon); remarks by McDonald’s Corporation Executive Debbie Roberts on her company’s policies on food production (Dec. 5, 9:15 a.m.); and remarks by Matt Lohr, Virginia commissioner of agriculture and presentation of Farm Bureau’s highest honor, the Silver Eagle Award (Dec. 6, 6:30 p.m. banquet).