Washington Farm Bureau bids goodbye to 17-year president
By DAN WHEAT
YAKIMA, Wash. -- American agriculture needs continued freedom to feed the world, including a legal and reliable workforce, Steve Appel told the Washington Farm Bureau annual meeting as he retired as president.
Appel, a third-generation Dusty, Wash., wheat farmer, thanked delegates for re-electing him for 17 consecutive years. He said the organization is poised for a big jump forward and that he hopes it always looks for new ideas and never becomes overly mature.
Regarding freedom to feed the world, Appel said, "We need to be concerned about some social do-gooders with some very extreme ideas."
Groups that propose what they call the "re-wilding of America" want to shrink agriculture to feed only the cities it surrounds, said Appel, who served seven years as vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
"So then who decides who eats and who goes hungry?" he asked. "We need to carefully study the direction of American agriculture to ensure we continue to feed a hungry world."
When a natural disaster strikes or people are displaced and hungry, they don't ask where is France or Germany or Brazil or Russia, he said. "They ask, 'Where are the Americans?'"
And America delivers with shipments of food and goods, but doing that means freedom from regulatory overreach, he said.
The Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to regulate dust on farms "is a gross overreach," and if not, "is merely stupid," Appel said.
"As a wheat grower I cannot imagine how we could eliminate dust from planting the crop and harvesting the crop or doing all the things in between," he said.
The EPA's effort to regulate "so-called greenhouse gasses" from cows is another example, he said, noting millions of wild animals pass gas and belch.
And environmental groups sue to stop things like the Trans-Canada Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Texas gulf coast that would benefit America and American agriculture for decades, he said.
Regarding immigration reform, Appel said he understands the need for secure borders, the drain on states' resources caused by the flood of illegal immigrants and concerns about voter fraud.
While Columbia Legal Services files lawsuits to drive growers away from programs that can help provide workers, a program to provide legal workers when they are needed is needed, he said.