DFB asking legislators to help farmers’ GMO rights

Staff Writer

DOVER, Del. (Dec. 13, 2016) — Eighty-two delegates seated at the annual meeting of Delaware Farm Bureau, Nov. 29 unanimously passed a resolution that DFB “encourages the General Assembly to pass legislation protecting the farmer’s right to use any biotechnology product available on the market.”
In anticipation of legislation pertaining to genetically modified seed, it was suggested that DFB’s policy book should address the matter.
Executive Director Pam Bakerian said that in some locales, certain pesticides and GMO crops have been outlawed, but a judge recently ruled that state and federal laws preempt local policies. The vote for the resolution was unanimous.
A proposed change in the bylaws failed to get the required two-thirds majority. The change would have set an equal number of meeting delegates from each county, rather than the current method of allotting delegates according to membership numbers.
Don R. Parrish, senior director of congressional relations at American Farm Bureau Federation, was the keynote speaker.
He urged the delegates: “You are a state of 900,000 farmers and a lot of non-farmers. You have an opportunity to connect with people in-state and in virtually every state, because they drive through here. Put agriculture’s best foot forward.”
Parrish said AFBF’s priorities for the immediate future are trade, labor, regulatory reform and preparation for the Farm Bill.
In her report, DFB President Kitty Holtz said that in the last two years, DFB has focused on creating a stronger connection with members and consumers.
Its mission statement was shortened to: “To promote and protect Delaware agriculture through education and advocacy to ensure a quality of life for farmers and their consumers.”
DFB also has provided opportunities for members to participate in the legislative and regulatory process regarding such issues as tail docking and raising the minimum wage, both of which DFB opposed.
Members also were involved with the Land Protection Act/Open Space bill, which resulted in removal of SRA maps and reference to the Delaware Wildlife Action Plan.
Another effort helped prevent a property tax increase to pay for a proposed clean water initiative.
Members also attended hearings on storm water regulations.
As a result, poultry houses are allowed to submit a standard plan and not be subjected to commercial development regulations.
“Our legislators are recognizing the importance of having someone from the Delaware Farm Bureau being actively involved in many of those decision-making discussions that could produce regulations or legislation that affects agriculture,” Holtz said.
For example, DFB is listed as a committee member of a new Noise Control Task Force.
Nationally, she added, DFB supported a universal GMO labeling legislation that was passed and  permanent extension of the Section 179 tax benefit that allows deduction of up to $500,000 per year for qualifying business equipment purchases.
Delmarva Farm Bureau also supports American Farm Bureau Federation’s lobbying efforts to “Ditch the Rule” regarding Waters of the United States regulation.
Holtz concluded, “We are trying to think outside the box and explore new ways of showing our relevance as an organization. I am excited at the potential of what we can accomplish and would like to see our new initiative through over the next two years.”
Bakerian outlined accomplishments of DFB staff, including support of efforts by the county Farm Bureaus and committees.
These include the Promotion and Education Committee’s ag safety campaign during harvest, distribution of book barns to school libraries and visits by the Ag Lab to summer camps.
The team is working to increase public awareness of what Farm Bureau is and does via social media as well as traditional print media.
In election of officers, Kitty Holtz of Kent County and Laura Hill of Sussex County were re-elected president and first vice president, respectively, and Jim Mitchell of New Castle County was elected second vice president.
They will serve for a term of two years.