Delaware Farm Bureau updates resolutions

Staff Writer

DOVER, Del. (Dec. 8, 2015) — Before considering new resolutions at its annual meeting Dec. 1, the Delaware Farm Bureau took action to rescind a resolution adopted last year that might have led to legal problems in the future.
The resolution was a statement of support for “the promotion of the fundamental principles and family values on which our nation was founded” and the definition of family as “persons related by blood, marriage between males and females, or legal adoption.”
DFB’s former attorney, Jeff Clark, who is now a judge, had expressed concerns about the legal ramifications of this resolution, and the new attorney, Scott Chambers, agreed. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, he explained, the Supreme Court’s decision about the right for couples to marry is the law of the land. When applying for grants, DFB must assert it does not discriminate, and the IRS also has strict rules.
“This policy may cause difficulty,” he said.
Stewart Ramsey noted the resolution was contrary to wording in the employee handbook. “I think this is a personal issue and we should keep it out of Farm Bureau business. It detracts from what we do. I suggest an anonymous vote by written ballot.”
Jonathan Thompson said the original resolution had been copied from the American Farm Bureau Federation’s policy book.
DFB President Kitty Holtz said the matter is also an issue at AFBF and will be discussed at its convention in January.
Chambers advised it would be better to rescind the resolution and start fresh rather than try to change it.
Thompson predicted that if AFBF took it out, the states would put it back in. “In Texas, the building shook,” he said.
Balloting resulted in the required two-thirds majority voting to rescind.
Three new resolutions were approved. It was noted that while the “whereas” introductions were lengthy, only the “be it resolved” part appears in the policy book.
The first resolution observed some confusion in DFB policy regarding ag land preservation. Whereas a new DFB Farmland Preservation Committee had been formed to review current policy and had recommended to the board of directors that the current policy be deleted, it was resolved that new language be adopted stating:
• DFB supports the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Program.
• DFB supports landowners having the option of leaving the Ag District due to program changes.
• DFP supports the use of “highest and best use” appraisal practices.
• DFB supports permanent funding for the program.
• DFB encourages policies that preserve farmland in a fair and equitable manner.
• DFB supports a bond offering to enhance the Agricultural Preservation Program.
Continuing, DFB recommends:
• Encourage the Installment Purchase Agreement as a tool to preserve farms.
• Support full funding to reduce the discount rate.
• Create a new program to assist farmers making purchase of farmland, including allowing three-party purchases of land with the seller going to settlement with a qualified buyer and the DFLF.
• Set aside or create a revolving fund used to take immediate action to preserve or protect farmland.
The second resolution included a great deal of background on the Flood Abatement Task Force and a “Clean Water for Delaware Fee” which could cost owners of farm parcels to pay up to $15,000 a year. It was resolved that DFB oppose the following:
• Implementing a water tax/fee on farm property, buildings and irrigation systems;
• The proposed creation of the Clean Water for Delaware Act;” and
• Establishing the “Clean Water for Delaware Trust Fund.”
Tom Unruh, who represented DFB on the task force, said he had been surprised at all the bureaucracy” which outnumbered him as the sole farmer.
Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, who was asked to comment, said he did not favor the proposed clean water legislation “as a Farm Bureau member, as an ‘ag guy,’ or as Secretary of Agriculture. It just is not a good idea.” The proposal has been floating around for two years, he said, but still could become a bill. “Putting the burden on agriculture is just wrong,” he said.
Several other delegates took the floor to explain their concerns about the proposals before the resolution was unanimously adopted.
The final resolution, for many stated reasons, was that DFB opposes any state legislation mandating GMO (genetically modified Organism) labeling. It also passed unanimously.
The scheduled speaker, Don Parrish, AFBF’s senior director of regulatory relations, was unable to attend. His topic, WOTUS — Waters of the United States — is a great concern to farmers. Secretary Kee was asked to make comments and said the new EPA regulations are now in effect, although there has been a move to rescind them and start all over. The main concern is where does federal control start? Kee said, “There may be two or three years with no impact, but the door is now open for EPA to put in more restrictions. It is good that farm organizations are keeping the issue alive. I have no doubt it will turn on Delaware farmers in the future.”
Jonathan Thompson said the regulations could “not just destroy agriculture but the entire state.”
Richard Wilkins noted the “Clean Water Rule” was not legislation. “It was never voted on. It was an expansion by the Executive Branch of the definition of Waters of the U.S.”
Cards were distributed with the request that delegates help to “Ditch the Rule” by signing their names and giving addresses. The cards will be sent to AFBF to help in the fight. According to the card, “Congress never meant to require federal permits for ordinary farming and ranching.”