SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) delegates actively participated in the voting delegate session during the 105th American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Meeting held on Tuesday, Jan. 23 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Nebraska delegates contributed to setting crucial policy priorities for agriculture in 2024. The session brought together farmers and ranchers from across the nation to deliberate and provide direction on key issues impacting America’s farm and ranch families.
Among the top policy items under discussion, NEFB members engaged in robust conversations surrounding the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in agriculture. Recognizing the potential benefits and challenges associated with AI technologies, the delegates deliberated on the need for responsible and ethical AI implementation to enhance efficiency, sustainability, and productivity on our nation’s farms and ranches.
“The implementation of new technology including the use of Artificial Intelligence is moving at lightning speed, and we need to make sure the regulatory structure that is developed overseeing these technologies keeps farmers and ranchers at top of mind,” said Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue.
NEFB also voiced strong support for the repeal of California’s Proposition 12, a policy priority for AFBF in 2024. Proposition 12, passed by California voters in 2018 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2023, places arbitrary animal welfare standards on pork, poultry, and veal products coming into the state of California. The law effectively forces farmers and ranchers to comply with California animal welfare standards and will likely service as a roadmap for new regulations and restrictions on food production for years to come.
“In just a few short weeks since the law has been in effect, California consumers have already seen a substantial increase in the cost of pork products. This increase in food costs for California families and increasing the cost of production for Nebraska farmers and ranchers, must be overturned by Congress as quickly as possible,” said McHargue.
Foreign ownership of farmland continues to be an emerging political topic, and NEFB delegates helped solidify new policy for AFBF to utilize in 2024. A number of federal agencies are involved in transactions involving foreign companies and individuals; however data collection/management remains inconsistent and in need of reform. At the same time, the multi-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) only reviews transactions of a certain size. This all led NEFB to successfully push for passage of policy language supporting the reformation of data collection at the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the expansion of funds and jurisdiction of CFIUS.
“The discussion on who owns and is purchasing farmland in the United States continues to be a hot-button topic in Washington, D.C., as well as at the State Capitol in Lincoln. We need to ensure that these transactions are appropriately tracked by the USDA and go through all necessary national security reviews by CFIUS so that we can ensure our own national security but not harm necessary economic development,” said McHargue.
Lastly, the labor needs of agriculture also took center stage as farmers and ranchers highlighted the critical role that a skilled and reliable workforce plays in sustaining agricultural operations. The delegates discussed strategies to address the ongoing challenges of labor shortages, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive immigration reform and innovative solutions to attract and retain skilled workers in the agricultural sector.
“While separate discussions, it is hard to talk about agriculture’s dire labor needs without talking about the need to pass immigration reform. Congress must continue to work to find a path forward to reform federal labor programs, such as freezing the H2A Adverse Effect Wage Rate, as well as dealing with the crisis at our nation’s borders,” said McHargue.
NEFB remains committed to advocating for policies that support the economic well-being and prosperity of Nebraska’s farm and ranch families, and the outcomes of the delegate session will guide the organization’s efforts in the coming year.
In addition to policy development, a series of Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) competitive events occurred during AFBF’s Annual Meeting. Joe Melnick, an Adams/Webster County Farm Bureau member competed as Nebraska’s representative in the YF&R Discussion Meet. Ryan Musgrave of Clay County Farm Bureau was recognized as Nebraska’s competitor for the Achievement in Agriculture award. Nebraska’s Excellence in Agriculture competitors were Josh and Jill England, Hall County Farm Bureau members.
Nebraska company, IDEM Irrigation, was also a Top 10 finalist in the AFBF Ag Innovation Challenge and earned $10,000 in startup funds. The Ag Innovation Challenge is designed to encourage the development of innovative solutions facing agriculture and show case new ideas.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service, and advocacy efforts. More than 55,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit www.nefb.org.