News and Commentary
Voice of Idaho Agriculture
The 113th elected Congress in this nation’s history recently came to a merciful end. Historians have labeled it the least productive in history in terms of bills passed with 203 pieces of legislation becoming law. The 113th beat out the 112th Congress in this category by a slim margin.
Whether Congress should be judged based on number of bills passed is open to interpretation. Sometimes it’s better when certain bills don’t get passed. But during the last two sessions of Congress, gridlock has prevailed. The opportunity for statesmanship to trump party politics has never been greater. Going forward we have a Republican congress that is expected to pass important legislation that will move the country forward. The test will be whether the 114th Congress will pass bills that President Obama will sign. Will they choose to find compromises, or stand in front of TV cameras and bloviate about the President’s veto power? We hope they choose the former.
With regard to the 113th Congress, there were three areas of bipartisan cooperation under Democratic leadership in the Senate: A five-year farm bill was passed, reforms were made in the beleaguered Veteran Affairs and, of course, the spending bill to fund the government through next September was agreed upon. But tons of business will spill over into the 114th Congress.
Ballot measures requiring labeling of food made with genetically modified ingredients recently failed in Colorado and Oregon. California and Washington voters rejected similar measures in recent years and now nearly half of all states have considered labeling requirements.
Only one state, Vermont, has passed a law requiring GMO labeling. It’s facing a legal challenge there and is not slated to take effect until 2016.
In Oregon, one of the nation’s most liberal states, the measure lost by a narrow margin. Many pundits thought a labeling bill had a good chance of passing there. In Colorado the measure was defeated by a two to one margin. Millions of dollars have been spent both advocating for GMO labeling and defending the status quo. So what is the takeaway message from this effort to implement state labeling laws?
A website recently launched by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows consumers the benefits of genetic technology in crops. Located at www.fb.org/biotech, the new site provides valuable information on the benefits of biotechnology to our economy, environment and much more.
Biotechnology has proven to be an important tool for better sustainability and food security. It helps farmers grow more food while improving the environment. For example, biotechnology reduces the use of costly inputs and improves weed management, allowing farmers to reduce tillage for better soil, water and air quality. Today, roughly 90 percent of corn, cotton and soybeans grown in the U.S. have been improved through biotechnology, and farmers are choosing biotech traits when growing other crops such as alfalfa, sugarbeets and canola.
Despite rapid adoption by farmers and a strong scientific consensus that biotechnology does not pose health and environmental risks, regulatory burdens are slowing research and innovation of new biotech traits and are starting to reduce U.S. farmers’ international competitive advantage. In addition, activist groups routinely threaten the availability of new traits by blocking science-based regulatory decisions, filing lawsuits and advocating for labeling mandates.
One reason people around the country are angry with the federal government is that unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in federal agencies are increasingly making-up and enforcing rules which destroy our legitimate rights. These agencies are usurping powers they were never given nor intended to have under the Constitution.
Unfortunately this can, and sometimes does happen here in Idaho with our state agencies as well. If we are not vigilant, rules can slip through the process that are not consistent with the intent of the law.
The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation does not endorse candidates for statewide offices. However, statements posted on Idaho Gubernatorial Candidate A.J. Balukoff’s website are reasons for rural voters to be concerned.
We believe Idaho voters should be aware of and informed about the candidate’s position on wolves, monument designations and several others. The following statement is one example:
What do you think about the state wolf-control panel that Gov. Otter and the Legislature created this year?
“I think that was more about election-year politics than an attempt to create informed public policy.....
Americans, and especially Idahoans, love and cherish public lands. We take it for granted that they will always be there for us to enjoy. Unfortunately, we all are incrementally being shut out of “our” public lands by the federal “managers.”
In an attempt to rally for the cause of reforming our nation’s broken immigration policy, farmers, ranchers and lobbyists from various business groups went to Washington D.C. on July 9 to encourage Congress to find a decisive way forward.
The American Farm Bureau Federation recently reviewed EPA’s March 25 release of the ‘waters of the U.S.’ proposed rule. The results of the review are dismaying.