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Third term secured, Knight prepares to advance Farm Bureau’s legislative agenda

December 7th, 2012 No comments

Randy Knight was elected in early December to his third term as president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

Like most heads of advocacy organizations, Knight is finalizing Farm Bureau’s agenda for the upcoming legislative session, which starts Jan. 8.

Near the top of the legislative wish list is making sure no changes are made to the state’s animal cruelty law, which was passed in 2011 after a compromise between Farm Bureau and animal rights groups. It makes a second offense a felony.

“We’d love to see that compromise upheld,” Knight said.

Legislation legalizing deer farming, an issue packaged as a one that will drive economic development by attracting out-of-state hunters to deer farms, has failed the past few sessions. Allowing it would endanger livestock, Knight said.

“It carries significant risk of disease.” Deer farming is legal in 33 states.

Also on the legislative agenda is some kind of reform to the state’s cattle theft laws. According to 2011 numbers provided by Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, an average of 250 cattle are stolen per year. That number could rise, with droughts in Texas and the Midwest shrinking the U.S. cattle herd and driving up prices.

It involves more than rustlers stealing cows out of a pasture, Knight said. Buyers at sale barns can pose as legitimate cattle companies and make off with truckloads of cows because they’re allowed 48 hours to tender payment. Any legislation would have to protect sellers, Knight said.

Knight said his primary mission for Farm Bureau itself will be to grow the federation’s membership. He said the number of member families in 2012 exceeded 200,000 for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

“Our emphasis is educating the general public on what Farm Bureau does,” Knight said. “If people knew how we stood up for them in the Legislature and in Washington, more people would want to be a member of Farm Bureau.

“And we’re always growing our education process,” Knight continued. “If we don’t tell our story, and what we’re doing on the farm and how we’re taking care of our animals, somebody else is going to tell it for us. And it won’t be told the right way.”

 

Miss. Farm Bureau files motion to intervene in water quality lawsuit

May 10th, 2012 No comments

The Mississippi Farm Bureau joined 13 sister state organizations earlier this week in filing a motion to intervene in Gulf Restoration Network, et al. v. Jackson, et al.

Gulf Restoration is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to either adopt uniform nutrient water quality standards for all U.S. waters or to adopt similar measures for states in the Mississippi River Basin. The suit is filed in federal court in Louisiana.

The Clean Water Act allows states to choose whether to use narrative or numeric standards to determine water quality. Most states in the Mississippi River Basin employ the narrative method, which calls for “no nutrients at levels that cause a harmful imbalance of aquatic populations,” meaning water quality should be such that it doesn’t lead to the demise of one species or another.

What Gulf Restoration wants is for the EPA to force states – if not every state, at least those that border the river – to adopt the numeric standards, which would set hard and fast limits on nutrients.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the 14 state organizations claim such a move would prove costly for farmers. Numeric standards, they say, could impose stringent limits on runoff to bodies of water that drain into the Mississippi River. In Mississippi, that’s nearly every body of water west of Interstate 55, and a lot east of 55.

“Setting appropriate numeric nutrient standards is a complex and difficult scientific undertaking and EPA has proven it is not up to the task,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said in a press release. “Farmers have no reason to believe that EPA could establish scientifically defensible standards for any one state, much less for 40 percent of the U.S. land mass.”

The purpose of the proposed intervention is to clarify the limited circumstances within the Clean Water Act that allow the EPA to set water quality standards that override those already set in place by a state government. Stallman said the AFBF opposes a “top-down, one-size-fits-all approach.”

Joining Mississippi in filing the motion to intervene were Farm Bureaus in Arkansas; Illinois; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Nebraska; Oklahoma; South Dakota; Tennessee; and Wyoming.