American Farm Bureau Federation
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is one of the oldest and most powerful trade associations in the United States, founded in 1911. The American Farm Bureau works to promote the agenda of the agriculture, chemical, food, and manufacturing industries by lobbying both national and state governments, as a National Trade Organization with state chapters in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
The "Farm Bureau," as it is generally known, has a history of involvement with fossil fuel industry front groups, such as Energy Citizens and Heartland Institute. Energy Citizens is an alliance of individuals and organizations, backed by the American Petroleum Institute, which attempts to fight climate change legislation, emphasizing the importance of oil and coal. Heartland, a conservative and libertarian think tank, maintains its denial of climate change and rejects scientific consensus on climate change. Along with AFBF, they support hydraulic fracking, ostensibly as a component of American livelihood.
In 2018, AFBF spent $3,148,374 on lobbying efforts.
AMERICAN FARM BUREAU Stance on Climate
The American Farm Bureau's official stance on climate change acknowledges that “some scientists claim” climate change is occurring as a result of human activity, misrepresenting the scientific community's wide understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change. The stance allows the Farm Bureau to neither agree or disagree with scientist's understanding of climate change. The AFBF statement also describes how any action to help the environment should be taken without hurting farmers economically, without noting the costs that climate change is projected to impose on farmers, and costs imposed on the economy and society as a whole. (For more references, please see studies compiled by the the USDA, U.S. EPA, the U.S. National Climate Assessment, and United Nations research on climate impacts on agriculture globally.)
In a "Climate Factsheet" published by the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2019, the AFBF states:
While the Farm Bureau concedes that the climate “may” be changing, it does not support any government policies to regulate GHGs, and believes if any action should be taken, it should be through market-based solutions. The fact sheet specifically notes that AFBF does not support “any climate change legislation that would make America less competitive in the global marketplace and put undue costs on American agriculture, business and consumers.” The two actions AFBF does condone are new energy sources, specifically biofuels and renewables.
AMERICAN FARM BUREAU Advocacy
Supports delisting the Gray Wolf from the endangered species list, citing numbers (5000 in the US), and recovery efforts far exceeding the target. They argue the wolves pose a threat to livestock. However, while populations of the wolves have recovered, de-listing them poses threats to their continued survival.
AFB officially acknowledges that farmers face major issues from weather related phenomena. They share articles referencing extreme weather phenomena and potential long-term effects. However, AFBF continues to hedge bets and adhere to conservative political messaging by casting climate change as a claim by certain scientists. The AFB has expressed two somewhat contradictory positions on disaster relief: They only talk about the possibility of climate change when it affects farmers, ie in the context of increased severity of weather disasters destroying agricultural land. They state they do not support any government policy relating to climate change, but also say: “AFBF supports protecting the programs that will ensure U.S. farmers and ranchers can continue to farm and ranch until market conditions improve.” In other words, the AFB advocates for protecting farmers from the effects of climate change, but doesn’t do anything to address it’s cause and thereby prevent it from getting worse for farmers.
Under Obama’s Clean Water Act, the definition of the “US waterways” was expanded. For farmers, water rights are a highly contested issue, and with this new definition, the US government’s control of waterways is expanded. Advocating against WOTUS is one of the actions AFBF has taken to support the Trump administration’s dismantling of EPA regulations.
The Ethanol Fuel Ban is an Obama-Era regulation which prevented the sale of fuels blended with 15% ethanol during the summer to prevent smog caused by the burning of these fuels. The ban reversal will increase air pollution, and could be illegal under the Clean Air Act. AFB rep praised the proposal for “opening up markets,” the same reasoning used by EPA Director and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler. Lifting the ban would increase demand for soy and corn, two crops used to produce ethanol. Current demand for soy and corn is driving land conversion into previously non-agricultural land, particularly into grasslands. Further incentivization on production of these crops could therefore create additional carbon impacts and habitat loss.
While these are the main issues listed on the Farm Bureau’s website, the organization also publishes an annual policy book. They take stances on issues completely unrelated to farmers, ranging from same sex marriage to eliminating gun-free zones. This policy book provides more evidence that the Farm Bureau does not stand for the “family farmer,” as it claims, but rather a far-right political agenda.
AFBF promotes increased exploration and production of domestic energy, specifically noting support for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the use of coal in an “environmentally sound manner,” parroting industry talking points on the myth of clean coal.
-“In the near term, stopping exploration for and use of fossil fuels cannot be done without severely disrupting our economy and threatening Americans’ standard of living.”
- “Farm Bureau supports additional access for exploration and production of oil and natural gas, including the use of hydraulic fracturing. Farm Bureau also supports the expanded use of coal in an environmentally sound manner.”
AFBF’s support for fracking suggests that average farmers may not be at the heart of AFBF’s agenda. Much of the farmland in the United States is located on shale plays, meaning that farms and farming communities could be exposed to the hazards of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), as well as be forced into direct competition for scarce water resources with wealthy oil companies. A New York Times article examining competition for water in Colorado quotes the views of a farmer in the region: “It’s not a level playing field,” said Peter V. Anderson, who grows corn and alfalfa on the parched plains of eastern Colorado. “I don’t think in reality that the farmer can compete with the oil and gas companies for that water. Their return is a hell of a lot better than ours.” Drilling and fracking can also cause water contamination, and may result in the contamination of America’s foodsheds. Further, rural gas gathering pipelines are unregulated, and operators have no obligation to make public reports of faults that could cause contamination unless the require evacuation. Contamination of arable land is a direct human health hazard, as well as an environmental disaster. Recent research has identified that the chemicals from fracking fluids and the produced wastewater can lead to soil accumulation, and lead to bioaccumulation and biomagnification as they enter plants, animals, and humans. Biofuels Farm Bureau believes that any opposition or limitation on biofuels will create an unsupportable burden on farmers, and reduce their income.
2. Supports Renewable Fuel Standard 2 (2007)
“Describing the renewable fuels standard as ‘a strong engine driving the rural economy,’ the American Farm Bureau Federation and five other ag. groups in a letter asked President Donald Trump to reject proposals that would undermine the biofuels mandate. The letter was sent Monday, Feb. 26, the day before Trump was expected to gather various administration leaders and senators at the White House to discuss potential changes to the RFS.”
“Further development and use of renewable fuel and energy sources such as ethanol, biodiesel, biomass and wind are critical to our nation’s energy future and will strengthen the overall national security of the United States.” “Farm Bureau supports H.R.1090, the Technologies for Energy Security Act, because it contains an extension of important tax incentives for small wind energy property.”
“Recent years federal agencies have muddied the waters with overreaching rules and regulations that are more about controlling land than protecting water.” “The proposed new clean water rule seeks to clarify which waters are subject to which type of protection. In particular, it preserves state authority over many land features that only carry water when it rains.” The Clean Water Rule is another piece of environmental legislation passed under the Obama administration. The regulation defined the scope of federal water protection in a more consistent manner, particularly over streams and wetlands which have a significant hydrological and ecological connection to traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, and territorial seas. In 2017, Trump signed an executive order directing the EPA to review the Clean Water Rule for conflicts with his economic growth agenda.
Air Pollution from Farming
American Farm Bureau Federation, along with other industry trade associations met with EPA leaders to encourage the passing of an amendment which would exempt farms from having to disclose their air emissions. The original legislation which required this disclosure of air emissions was the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), both of which were passed during the Obama administration. In June 2019, the EPA passed the EPCRA Amendment, citing “the regulatory burden” the EPCRA and CERLA put on farms by requiring them to disclose their air emissions.
The American Farm Bureau is also the third largest insurance group in the United States, a million dollar network of for-profit insurance companies. Those insurance companies are considered members of AFBF, so, even though there are only about 2 million actual farmers in the US, the Farm Bureau has over 6 million members. Farmers must be members of AFBF in order to access the insurance. In 2016, American Farm Bureau Insurance reported $6,558,678,653 in assets, some of which is invested in various oil and gas companies. The Farm Bureau also has a bank, so all finances for farmers can be accessed through AFBF.
The Farm Bureau also has state chapters, allowing the organization to have leverage at the state level. It has chapters in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The chapter structure allows for AFBF extend its reach on the issues to the state level. While the AFBF as a national organization lobbies, each state chapter also is a powerful lobbying force. Top chapter spending on lobbying in 2018:
Texas chapter - $1,226,315
California chapter - $652,991
Ohio chapter - $422,581
Iowa chapter - $149,147
AMERICAN FARM BUREAU Lobbying
Tracking the $3,148,374 AFBF spent on lobbying efforts in the 2018 election cycle, most dollars went towards the advocacy causes listed above. They currently have 18 federal lobbyists. In 2018, AFBF donated $10,496 to AG America, an organization focused on supporting the election of Republicans into positions of power for the agriculture industry. AFBF’s donation ranked it 21st on AG America’s list of donors. Donations to AG America have increased from around $40K in the 2014 election cycle to $562K in 2016 and $746K in 2018. Their sole donor in 2014 was Charles Herbster, an agriculture industry executive who was appointed the national chairman of Trump's Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee in 2017. In subsequent election cycles, the biggest donors are, most notably, different members of the agriculture and tobacco industries.