Zippy Duvall

Duvall: Agriculture gains clout to address over regulation, labor needs

"If we don’t fix this, none of the other issues will matter because over regulation will put our farms and ranches out of business,” says Zippy Duvall, president, American Farm Bureau Federation.

In the world of politics it’s all about clout. The election of Donald Trump for U.S. president may have delivered a storage bin of this precious ‘commodity’ to U.S. agriculture which over the long term could reduce over regulation and bring labor solutions to farmers and ranchers.

Why all the clout for agriculture? Voters in rural America and the “Rust Belt” have been singled out as two groups who pushed Trump over the top to win the presidency. Now, agriculture may be poised to play its clout card.

“The election should send a message – loud and clear – to our politicians: ignore rural American at your own risk!,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

Duvall shared this warning shot across the bow on Jan. 8 during AFBF’s 98th Annual Conference held in Phoenix, Ariz.

Duvall knows what’s foremost on the minds of U.S. farmers and ranchers. Since his election as AFBF’s top leader a year ago, he has met with farmers and ranchers in 33 states. Their top shared concerns included stopping the over regulation of agriculture.

“On this issue – just like ag labor - so many farmers have told me: If we don’t fix this, none of the other issues will matter because over regulation will put our farms and ranches out of business,” Duvall said.

Duvall is a Georgia cattle, chicken, and hay farmer. He succeeded retiring AFBF President Bob Stallman, a Texas cattle and rice producer.

Duvall says real reform of the regulatory process is much more than “pulling up the weeds.”

“We have to get right down to the roots that allow these weeds to keep coming back, again and again.”

A plus for those supporting less agricultural regulation is Trump’s top campaign promise to reduce government regulations for all types of businesses.

AGRICULTURAL LABOR

In a news conference following his speech, Duvall discussed the need for sufficient agricultural workers to plant, tend, and harvest crops across the nation. He said more farm labor is needed, proven by the increase in H-2A labor applications submitted to the federal government over the last several years.

“We really want a new (federal labor) program that’s flexible that works for farmers and ranchers but also works for the employee,” including those who are undocumented, says Duvall.

Duvall says some farmworkers are "engrained in our communities and engrained on our farms and families and we’d like to have a way to adjust their status if they are law-biding people and give them the opportunity to stay here and be able to work.”

He added, “Someone might say they broke the law. If you break the law then you pay a fine. Then let’s get on with it and try to be businessmen about this - find a good solution to the problem.”

Duvall says a sustainable workforce for agriculture is essential to keep food production in America.

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