Bob Stallman

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Bob Stallman is the President of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and chair of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, both front groups for big agribusiness. Tom Laskawy of Grist.org writes that Stallman "has a lengthy history of climate denial and obstructionism." He opposes U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations to reduce greenhouse gases, saying “We vehemently oppose regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act because we believe it will require livestock producers and other agricultural operations to obtain costly and time-consuming permits as conditions to continue farming.”[1][2]

Opposition to "The Nonstop Criticism of Contemporary Agriculture"

2010 Speech to Farm Bureau

Stallman made headlines in 2010 with a fiery speech to Farm Bureau members at their 91st AFBF Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.[3] In it, he commented at length on "the nonstop criticism of contemporary agriculture!"

Stallman said:[3]

"Studies still show that consumers profess their admiration for us. Unfortunately, that admiration does not always extend to how we do what we do.
"Movies, magazine articles, undercover videos, all have sown seeds of doubt. Some members of our society question the values behind our tools and processes. They have begun to wonder about our moral compass.
"Our mission of feeding our nation and our world, caring for the environment and respecting the rights of our neighbors has not changed from our grandfathers’ days. But the ways in which we carry out that mission have.
"It is more vital than ever that we communicate about our values, that we convey how food production today is compatible with traditional ideals.
"We hear much about “sustainability,” which in my book is the most overused and ill-defined word in the policy arena today.
"The first sustainability for agriculture has to be economic sustainability."

He added:[3]

Already, there are too many external forces tugging at our seams. Emotionally charged labels such as: monoculture, factory farmer, industrial food, and big ag -- threaten to fray our edges.
"We must not let the activists and self-appointed – and self promoting -- food experts drive a wedge between us."

And:[3]

"There are a number of semi-organized movements taking shape across our land, led by citizens upset that their voices are going unheard. They fear a loss of control of their freedoms, their decisions, even their wallets.
"But, a line must be drawn between our polite and respectful engagement with consumers and the way we must aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule.
"Our adversaries are skillful at taking advantage of our politeness. Publicly, they call for friendly dialogue while privately their tactics are far from that.
"Who could blame us for thinking that the avalanche of misguided, activist-driven regulation on labor and environment being proposed in Washington is anything but unfriendly.
"The time has come to face our opponents with a new attitude. The days of their elitist power grabs are over.
"General George Patton was very quotable. He said that in times of war, “Make your plans to fit the circumstances.”
"To those who expect to just roll over America’s farm and ranch families, my only message is this: The circumstances have changed.
"Just one example...the Ohio Farm Bureau embraced this attitude by taking the fight to the enemies of modern animal agriculture. Ohio’s Ballot Issue 2 was a big win and one we must duplicate far and wide.
"Farm Bureau members, I ask you the following questions:
"Are we going to let animal rights activists destroy our ability to produce the meat that Americans want to eat? I say: No, we are not!
"Are we going to stand idly by as the proponents of a bigger government choke us with regulation? I say: No, we are not!
"Are we going to let the hysteria of doom and gloom climate change rhetoric diminish our ability to produce food for Americans and the rest of the world? I say: No we are not!"

Feeding the World

Stallman as an advocate of the idea that America must feed the world, an idea that promotes industrial, export-oriented agriculture in the United States and threatens that otherwise the world will be unable to produce enough calories to sustain the people on it.[3] He has praised Norman Borlaug as "one of the giants of agriculture" who "blazed the trail that led modern agriculture to higher production, to more food for mankind," adding:[3]

"Dr. Borlaug was the father of the green revolution. His work – in the field as well as the lab – saved millions of people from poverty and starvation.
"He believed that the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind.
"According to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, the world will have to produce 70 percent more food in the next 40 years to feed an extra 2.3 billion people who will share our planet.
"In order to meet that challenge, we must prepare for a second Green Revolution. Our continued use of modern, efficient farming practices will allow us to succeed...
"The world will continue to depend on food from the United States of America. And as global citizens, we must address those needs. To throttle back our ability to produce food -- at a time when the UN projects billions of more mouths to feed – is a moral failure."

Stallman listed controversial practices such as feedlots and animal confinements as well as genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) as necessary to feed the world.

The flaw in this rhetoric is twofold. First, producing an adequate supply of calories for each person on earth does not ensure their equitable distribution. This is already true as humanity produces more than enough calories at present to feed every man, woman, and child on earth, and yet hunger is widespread. Second, many scientists, including the authors of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report, have concluded that agroecology is the best way to produce enough food to meet the world's needs without exhausting the resources on the planet and while providing livelihoods to farmers.[4] This conclusion was seconded by UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter in 2011.[5] The authors of the IAASTD report specifically rejected GMOs as necessary to feed the world.

Additionally, U.S. production of cheap, subsidized commodities is often cited as undercutting farmers around the world where the U.S. commodities are sold at prices the farmers cannot compete with. This practice is known as dumping.

Climate Change

Stallman on climate:[3]

"Even worse, the Climate Change legislation before Congress will sharply cut the number of acres devoted to food production.
"At the very time that we need to increase our food production, Climate Change legislation threatens to slash our ability to do so. The exact level of land that will shift to trees will depend on the price of carbon – a number nobody knows at this point – but USDA suggests we could easily be talking about 59 million acres.
"That’s like setting aside every acre of land used for crop and food production in California, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
"In today’s terms, that means eliminating about 130,000 farms and ranches that grow food and crops.
"The United States would be less able to provide the world a viable hunger safety net. Food prices here at home would shoot up. The result? Less food security and our climate would not improve, not even by one degree."

In 2010, the Farm Bureau petitioned against cap and trade legislation and distributed caps to members, campaigning on a slogan of "Don’t CAP Our Future."[3]

Professional Positions

Articles and Resources

Related Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. American Farm Bureau Federation AFBF Calls on Congress to Nullify EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Scheme, March 31, 2010
  2. Scotty Johnson, Sam Husseini Right-Wing Business in Farmer's Overalls: The American Farm Bureau Federation Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, September/October 2000
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Transcript of Bob Stallman's Keynote Speech, American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting, 2010.
  4. IAASTD report, Accessed September 22, 2011.
  5. Olivier de Schutter, Agroecology and the Right to Food, March 8, 2011, Accessed September 22, 2011.
  6. Executive Committee, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, accessed January 19, 2009.

External Resources