As the new Congress and the Obama administration prepare to take up proposals to address the current economic recession and climate change concerns, they must enact policies on taxes and the environment that promote economic growth, said delegates at the 90th American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in San Antonio.

“Where Congress and the administration must propose and enact new laws and regulations to deal with our nation’s challenges, Farm Bureau will work to ensure those new measures do not threaten farmers’ and ranchers’ profitability,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman, “but, rather, capitalize on opportunities to maintain a strong agricultural economy and bolster rural America.”

As Congress is expected this year to revisit the issue of climate change, the delegates have reaffirmed their opposition to caps on greenhouse gas emissions that would drive up the cost of fuel, fertilizer and other inputs needed to produce farm commodities.

Continuing to support America’s transition to energy independence through the production of biofuels, the delegates felt, was the right direction. They approved a policy supporting an increase in the ethanol-to-gasoline blend rate to more than the current 10 percent.

AFBF delegates also approved policies aimed at bolstering the rural economy. For example, the Obama-backed economic stimulus proposal should fund improvements to the nation’s infrastructure, including expanding broadband Internet access in rural areas and funding the Water Resources Development Act, which authorized construction of new locks and dams on the inland waterways.

The delegates indicated that federal lawmakers and the new administration also should complete an unfinished immigration bill left over from 2008. They expressed support for immigration reform that provides a more efficient temporary worker program for agriculture. They voted to support improved training for employers to help them understand and better use the current H-2A seasonal agricultural worker program, and better information delivery for new users of the program.

Permanent repeal of the estate tax, which impedes farm families’ ability to keep farms in the family, was another issue on which the delegates indicated renewed support.

The delegates also approved a resolution stating that the concept of “sustainable agriculture” should be flexible and recognize the benefits of accepted agricultural practices. They supported scientific research and education that encourages all participants in the agricultural industry to produce, process and distribute safe food and feed.

“Our nation faces serious challenges and our leaders must deal with those,” said Stallman. “But in doing so, they also have opportunities to put policies in place — on issues such as energy, immigration, taxes and infrastructure — to make us stronger in the long run.”

Citing anti-livestock campaigns such as last year’s Proposition 2 in California, the delegates urged the AFBF board of directors to continue the Ag Challenges Initiative, a program that helps producers tell their story of responsible care for animals.

At the AFBF annual meeting, 369 voting delegates representing every state and agricultural commodity deliberated on policies affecting farmers’ and ranchers’ productivity and profitability. The policy approved at the annual meeting will guide the national farm organization’s legislative and regulatory efforts throughout 2009.