2017 Priorities & Policy Resolutions

approved by NCFC Council, February 2017 

Who we are…

Since 1929, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) has been the voice of America’s farmer cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives are businesses owned and controlled by farmers, ranchers, and growers. Cooperatives differ from other businesses because they are member-owned and operated for the benefit of members.

Farmer cooperatives handle, process, and market almost every type of agricultural commodity; furnish farm supplies; and provide credit and related financial services, including export financing.  Farmer cooperatives offer the best opportunity for America to realize the farmer-focused ideal of an enduring, competitive agricultural industry because they allow individual farmers the ability to own and lead organizations essential for continued competitiveness in both the domestic and international markets.

Through their cooperatives, farmers are able to:

  • Improve their income from the marketplace
  • Strengthen their bargaining power
  • Maintain access to competitive credit sources
  • Compete effectively in the global economy
  • Capitalize on new marketplace opportunities, including value-added processing
  • Manage risk
  • Access technical assistance and other services

NCFC members are regional and national farmer cooperatives, which in turn are comprised of nearly 3,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country.  They contribute to a vibrant rural economy, providing jobs for over 250,000 Americans.  The majority of America’s 2 million farmers and ranchers belong to at least one farmer cooperative.  NCFC members also include 21 state and regional councils of cooperatives.

NCFC 2017 Priorities

Numerous legislative and regulatory issues arise during the course of a year, and NCFC will work to ensure the value of farmer cooperatives is recognized by Congress and the Administration.  In 2017, NCFC will focus its efforts on key priority issues for farmer cooperatives, including:

  1. Support the Capper-Volstead Act antitrust protections for farmer cooperatives and protect the rights of farmers to join or form cooperatives to market their products and improve their income from the marketplace.
  2. Maintain Internal Revenue Code Subchapter T tax provisions for farmer cooperatives and promote favorable tax treatment for farmer cooperatives.
  3. Support legislative and regulatory efforts that promote the Farm Credit System’s unwavering mission to provide credit and related services to the agricultural sector and rural
  4. Maintain and promote farmer cooperative eligibility and access under USDA and other federal programs and initiatives.
  5. Maintain support and funding for USDA farm bill programs consistent with NCFC principles.
  6. Support immigration reform to meet agriculture’s labor needs and to ensure a dependable supply of high quality food and fiber.
  7. Support modernization of U.S. transportation infrastructure to maintain and enhance U.S. agriculture’s global competitiveness.
  8. Broaden support for enhanced U.S agricultural trade and increased market access.
  9. Support efforts to ensure regulations implementing financial regulatory market reforms do not impair farmer cooperatives’ ability to use and provide essential risk management tools.
  10.  Support conservation programs and environmental regulations that are locally driven and based on scientifically and economically sound practices, recognizing the unique nature of farmer cooperatives and production agriculture.
  11. Support efforts to ensure farmer-owned cooperatives, their employees, and the producers they serve are presented with affordable and varied options as part of any reforms to the nation’s health care system.
  12. Support the development of a comprehensive national energy strategy that meets our nation’s energy needs and maximizes a role in energy independence for American agriculture and farmer cooperatives.
  13. Support nutrition policy based on best available science and promote healthful consumption of meat, farm-raised aquaculture, dairy products, grains, and fruits, vegetables, and nuts, based on their nutritional value.
  14. Support efforts to reduce economic uncertainty created by burdensome regulations, including those that are pending.
  15. Support the development and use of technologies for efficient, safe production of affordable food, fiber and fuel.

NCFC Policy Resolutions

Legal, Tax and Accounting

Background:  Farmer-owned cooperatives are central to America’s abundant, safe and affordable food, fuel and fiber supply.  NCFC strongly supports public policy that continues to protect and strengthen the ability of farmers and ranchers to join together in cooperative efforts to maintain and promote the economic well-being of farmers, ensure access to competitive markets, and help capitalize on market opportunities.  The heart of farmer co-op policy lies with the protections afforded by the Capper-Volstead Act’s limited antitrust immunity for farmers and their cooperatives. Without those protections, many farmer cooperatives would cease to exist and the farmers and communities they serve would suffer irreparable harm.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Oppose any action that would limit the effectiveness and efficiency of farmer cooperatives and as such action would harm American agriculture and rural communities, resulting in a less reliable food, fuel and fiber
  2. Maintain Capper-Volstead Act protections and coordinate industry response to recent legal challenges regarding the scope and applicability of the Act.
  3. Maintain Internal Revenue Code Subchapter T tax provisions for farmer cooperatives.
  4. Promote tax and accounting policies that allow farmer cooperatives and their members to compete in today’s challenging marketplace and to pass on their operations to the next generation.
  5. Monitor implementation of Uniform Law for Cooperatives.

Farm Credit

Background:  The Farm Credit System is a cooperatively-owned network of financial institutions established by Congress to serve as the reliable supplier of competitively priced credit to U.S. farmers, ranchers, agricultural cooperatives, rural utilities, and other rural businesses.  The cooperative structure of the Farm Credit System ensures that profits are returned to customer-owners through patronage distributions or are used to support new, mission-related lending activities.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Support initiatives ensuring that the Farm Credit System remains a reliable and competitive source of credit to farmers, ranchers, agricultural cooperatives and rural infrastructure.
  2. Support the Agriculture Committees’ continued jurisdiction over the Farm Credit System and regulatory oversight by the Farm Credit Administration.
  3. Support initiatives that promote the ability of farmer cooperatives to offer forward contracts and risk-mitigation tools to producers, particularly in times of high crop and crop input prices.
  4. Support efforts by the Farm Credit System to modernize its lending authorities to reflect the changing rural and farm economy, including the development of new generation cooperatives, if such opportunities arise.
  5. Oppose any action that would revise Farm Credit System tax provisions in a manner that would negatively impact customer-owners and the ability of Farm Credit institutions to build capital necessary to serve customers.

Agriculture Policy

Background: NCFC strongly supported passage and implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill to meet the needs of U.S. producers, ensure the long-term viability, health and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture, and to help meet domestic and international food, fiber, feed, and energy needs.

Additionally, NCFC is following closely the appropriations process in Congress.  Programs that are authorized but never funded are of no help.  Likewise, programs that are deprived during the appropriations process never reach their full potential.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Maintain and promote farmer cooperative eligibility and access under USDA and other federal programs and initiatives.
  2. Maintain support and funding for USDA farm bill programs consistent with NCFC principles.
  3. Support efforts to maintain a budgetary baseline, thus minimizing potential budget cuts, to ensure adequate funding for policies and programs to meet the needs of U.S. agriculture.
  4. Maintain and promote a needed income safety net for producers, while helping to meet the food and fiber needs of consumers at home and abroad.
  5. Support dairy policy that reduces extreme volatility and establishes a viable and effective domestic safety net for producers with a focus on protecting the operating margin experienced by producers as reflected by milk price and input costs.
  6. Promote improved comprehensive risk management tools and programs for farmers, especially the Federal Crop Insurance program.
  7. Support strengthening the specialty crop industry through viable and economical systems that enhance the value, ensure the safety, and promote consumption of specialty crop products.
  8. Maintain and promote needed agricultural research.
  9. Support policies that enhance the ability of U.S. farmers to produce food, fuel and fiber using technologies that are based on proven science, including biotechnology.
  10. Support and maintain expanded pest and disease research programs, improved exclusion and eradication programs, and continue to protect the tools which are vital in these efforts.
  11. Support correcting the current imbalance in the specialty crop industry caused by the USDA Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA) which puts specialty crop farmers at a disadvantage.
  12. Increase federal funding to protect against the introduction of pests at ports of entry.
  13. Support federally authorized and producer supported research, marketing and promotion programs, commonly known as check-offs, which are established and approved in referenda by producers who fund the programs with their own money.
  14. Support sustainable business practices through an integrated approach to economic viability, environmental stewardship and community well-being.

Animal Agriculture 

Background:  NCFC supports animal agriculture policies that provide market transparency, reduce unnecessary government regulations, and increase availability of market information for livestock, poultry and egg producers.  Federal policies must recognize the unique and important role farmer-owned livestock and poultry marketing associations play in the success of American agriculture and in providing farmers the best opportunity to compete in an increasingly challenging marketplace.

NCFC also continues to work with industry partners to improve communications among farmers, ranchers, processors, food retailers and consumers, helping people better understand the role animal agriculture plays in providing a safe, abundant food supply.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Support strengthening the livestock industry through viable and economical systems that enhance the value and ensure the safety of animal agriculture products, promoting consumer confidence.
  2. Support policies that enhance the ability of cooperative members to raise animals for food and fiber consistent with best management practices, herd health objectives and available technologies based on proven science, are economically sound, and that ensure the safety of animal agriculture products.
  3. Support policies that promote the responsible use of production practices by producers in order to maintain the health of their animals and to continue to provide the American consumer with a high-quality source of protein.
  4. Support the use of antimicrobials in an approved herd health program to promote animal well-being and to provide healthy and safely produced food for consumers.
  5. Support policies to enhance business opportunities for livestock and poultry producers as well as their farmer-owned livestock marketing associations by providing the freedom and flexibility to engage in new market innovations.
  6. Oppose federal policies that negatively impact farmer-owned livestock marketing associations by limiting the marketing options of the cooperative and its members.
  7. Oppose activities and extreme policies that lack basis or scientific evidence and negatively impact the ability of farmer-owned cooperatives and their producer members to produce a safe and affordable food supply. 

Commodity Derivatives

Background:  As processors and marketers of commodities and suppliers of farm inputs, cooperatives are commercial end-users of over-the-counter derivatives (commodity swaps).  Cooperatives use swaps to effectively minimize risks associated with price movements in commodities, such as grain, dairy products, livestock, energy, and fertilizer.  In addition, swaps give cooperatives the ability to offer customized products to producers that help them better manage their risk and returns and, provide more predictable profitability.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Promote improved comprehensive risk management tools and programs for farmers.
  2. Support efforts to ensure Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulations do not impair farmer cooperatives’ ability to use and provide their members essential risk management tools.
  3. Support the development of risk management products to ensure a reliable and affordable supply of fertilizers and other inputs.

Rural Development

Background:  Farmer cooperatives have increased their presence in rural communities, and have a vested interest in the economic well-being of these areas.  Their activities, earnings, and patronage dividends directly support the rural American economy.  Federal policies must continue providing rural communities with the tools necessary to sustain and promote economic well-being.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Encourage and promote rural development, including through farmer-owned businesses.
  2. Strengthen programs to better enable farmers and their cooperatively-owned businesses to capitalize on new value-added market opportunities.
  3. Maintain Value-Added Producer Grants, including farmer cooperative eligibility, and full funding.
  4. Ensure USDA’s Cooperative Services is able to meet the needs of our nation’s farmer cooperatives by providing relevant and timely information, statistics and research in addition to effective program administration.
  5. Ensure rural America receives equitable treatment in federal infrastructure investments, including expansion of broadband.

Labor and Immigration 

Background: The agriculture industry faces unique employment needs and challenges, and the current H-2A guest worker program is unworkable.  Production agriculture requires sufficient farm labor resources in order to continue to supply the nation and the world with high quality food, fiber and fuel.  For production to continue in this country, agriculture must be supported by federal programs that allow for their labor needs to be met.  Federal policies now and in the future must recognize the unique nature of agricultural work and our international competitiveness issues that require access to a flexible workforce.  Additionally, farm safety is of the highest importance.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Support immigration reform that meets the unique needs of all segments of agriculture, in terms of visa length and addressing agricultural workers currently in the country. Without immigration reform, the current H-2A process must be simplified and eligibility extended for non-seasonal workers to meet the needs across all of agriculture.
  2. Support shifting the administration of agricultural worker visas from the Department of Labor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  3. Oppose mandatory E-Verify without a workable, legislative solution for agriculture’s current and future workforce. Oppose any efforts to exempt agriculture from the use of E-Verify which would likely lead to an increase in industry workforce audits.
  4. Support efforts to ensure that immigration regulation and enforcement procedures, including by the Department of Homeland Security, do not impose unreasonable costs and over burdensome obligations on agricultural employers.
  5. Support simplifying the methods for small seasonal employers to determine whether they are subject to the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act, and defining “seasonal employee” as a worker who is employed on a seasonal basis for six months or less during the calendar year, consistent with Department of Treasury regulations.
  6. Oppose Card Check legislation, recognizing that the card check procedure increases the risk of coercion by removing workers’ ability to cast a secret ballot regarding union organization.
  7. Support responsible and cost-effective regulatory policies that provide a safe and productive work environment while promoting our economicOppose federal efforts that do not adequately recognize the diversity of agricultural production and processing.
  8. Oppose policies that unnecessarily diminish the ability of young people to seek employment in agricultural operations and related fields.
  9. Farms with 10 or fewer employees should not be requlated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Energy

Background: NCFC supports an energy policy that maximizes a role for American agriculture and farmer cooperatives in energy independence.  Farmer cooperatives are vital players in this country’s quest for energy independence and in ensuring that producers are able to capitalize on expanded market opportunities.  Renewable energy sources, along with conservation, are important tools in securing a more affordable and accessible domestic renewable energy supply.

NCFC encourages passage of a comprehensive energy bill recognizing the contributions of the American farmer and rancher in the renewable energy industry.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Support legislative and regulatory action to meet U.S. and agriculture’s energy needs.
  2. Promote expanded development and use of renewable fuels and other energy sources as part of a comprehensive energy policy to help meet U.S. agriculture and our nation’s energy needs.
  3. Support a consistent and reliable policy of renewable fuels incentives and other provisions encouraging production of renewable fuels.  New approaches to federal investment in the renewable fuels industry should encourage innovation and market stability.
  4. Support voluntary policies promoting the development of technologies to further utilize manure as a feedstock to produce gas, fuel, or electricity, especially if these projects are cost-effective and provide an economic benefit to farmers and/or farmer-owned cooperatives.
  5. Recognize the importance of, and continuing role for, traditional energy sources, especially for the agriculture industry and rural America.
  6. Promote affordable technology advances for cleaner utilization of fossil-based fuel sources. 
  7. Support joint efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to investigate and minimize fraud and abuse in the generation and trading of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) used for compliance with the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Transportation & Infrastructure

Background:  Improving our transportation infrastructure must be a national priority deserving urgent attention – sooner rather than later.  Capacity constraints, structurally deficient bridges, deteriorating roads, and locks and dams long past their expected useful life require our full attention as a nation.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Support modernization of U.S. transportation infrastructure to maintain and enhance U.S. agriculture’s global competitiveness.
  2. Support legislation to fully fund construction of new locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River System.
  3. Support improvements in rail capacity, competition, service and accessibility in rural America.
  4. Support expansion of key trucking routes on the interstate system.
  5. Maintain and expand agricultural hours of service exemption.
  6. Pass long-overdue trucking productivity improvements, including increased allowable weights for hauling agricultural commodities.
  7. Support policies that promote the construction of pipelines in the United States to accommodate increased domestic energy production, improve the reliability and flexibility of our country’s energy delivery networks and to complement rail lines, highways and waterways.
  8. Support measures that facilitate increased U.S. port efficiencies and policies that prevent port disruptions that cause economic harm to agricultural shippers and producers.
  9. Support a streamlined review process through regulatory reforms of such laws as the Endangered Species Act to expedite improvements to existing infrastructure, avoiding unnecessary delays for long-awaited repairs.

International Trade

Background:  NCFC seeks a level playing field for U.S. agriculture in the global marketplace.  Market development and promotion programs are vital to maintaining and expanding U.S. agricultural exports, countering subsidized foreign competition, protecting American jobs and strengthening farm income.  Accordingly, NCFC supports strong market development and promotion programs in pursuit of increased agricultural exports and the farm-level benefits they generate.

Additionally, over the past decade, the resources for both FAS and APHIS have come under significant pressure due to budget issues.  This pressure has come at a time when competition in key foreign markets has only increased.  These resources, including personnel and infrastructure, are extremely valuable in ensuring that overseas markets remain open and efficient for U.S. agricultural exports.

We recognize the benefits of multilateral negotiations.  However, in the absence of an active multilateral round of trade negotiations, the U.S. should continue to engage in bilateral and regional negotiations to improve foreign market access for U.S. agricultural products.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. The U.S. trade remedy law process should be strictly adhered to so as to maintain it as a viable tool for American agriculture.
  2. Support passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.
  3. Support the negotiation of a comprehensive and ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that addresses tariffs, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) and other non-tariff trade barriers, including geographic indicators.
  4. Market Access
    1. Maintain and expand U.S. agriculture exports and global competitiveness, including substantially improved access to foreign markets.
    2. Maintain and strengthen USDA Export Programs and funding; and ensure continuation of the branded program and current cooperative eligibility in the Market Access Program.
    3. Support increased market access for U.S. agriculture exports, including to Cuba.
  5. Support enhanced resources for USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in support of U.S. agriculture exports.

Conservation and the Environment

Background:  NCFC is involved with a wide variety of conservation and environmental issues from implementation of farm bill conservation programs to pesticide registrations to wetlands regulations.  While the issues vary, our principles remain: NCFC believes conservation programs and environmental regulations should be locally driven and based on scientifically and economically sound practices, and should recognize the unique nature of farmer cooperatives and production agriculture.  Additionally, we work to promote the value of farmer cooperatives in the context of the growing dialogue about social responsibility and sustainability.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has multiple, aggressive regulatory and enforcement initiatives underway that ignore the role of states and affect nearly every aspect of U.S. agriculture.  Water quality, air quality, pesticide use, and climate change are all subject to major actions, and farms and ranches of all sizes can expect to be affected.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Promote environmental stewardship, recognizing the unique role that farmer cooperatives can play as a part of the delivery system relating to environmental programs.
  2. Oppose environmental legislation or regulatory actions that cause adverse impacts to farmer-owned cooperatives and their farmer members, including increased costs of production, that hinder their ability to produce food, fuel and fiber for the world.
  3. Support full funding for working lands conservation programs, including those that utilize voluntary, incentive-based conservation practices, in order to maximize conservation program benefits and better achieve important environmental objectives.
  4. Encourage EPA to assist producers with implementation tools and guidelines in order to comply with the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations.
  5. Support efforts to ensure access to critically needed crop protection products for agriculture.
  6. Support Endangered Species Act reform  to alleviate burdens on farmers and ranchers as well as impediments to infrastructure maintenance and repair.
  7. Support efforts to ensure producers participating in cost-share conservation programs can engage in opportunities in environmental services markets.
  8. Support implementation of science-based environmental policies while minimizing cost and regulatory burdens on farmer cooperatives and their member owners.
  9. Oppose expansion of the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act.

Food Safety

Background: America’s farmers and ranchers are committed to providing a safe and affordable food supply for consumers globally.  NCFC urges that any actions by Congress be based on best available science and prudent risk assessment. American consumers need to have confidence that their food is safe and that the best science is being used to ensure that the most wholesome products possible.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Support food safety legislation and regulations based on best available science, and that are risk-based, commodity specific, and applied equitably.
  2. Ensure food safety regulations enhance our nation’s food safety while avoiding negative impacts to farmer cooperatives and their producer members.

Nutrition & Labeling

Background:  A large and increasing number of federal dollars are spent to ensure nutritious food is available for our nation’s individuals, families, and children who rely on federal nutrition programs.  America’s farmers and ranchers supply the nation and the world with nutritious and wholesome food.  NCFC urges that any actions by Congress to update or change nutrition policy be based on best available science and USDA’s Dietary Guidelines.

Policy Resolutions:

  1. Support USDA food and nutrition programs and the continuation of USDA commodity purchases using Section 32 funds.
  2. Encourage USDA’s food and nutrition programs to provide all forms of fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts as outlined in the Dietary Guidelines.
  3. Ensure that federal nutrition policy is consistent with the Buy American provisions and encourages healthful consumption of meat, farm-raised aquaculture, dairy products, grains, and fruits, vegetables, and nuts, based on best available science.
  4. Support the healthful consumption of higher fat content milk and milk products through federal nutrition programs.
  5. Support the use of agricultural production technologies, such as the production and use of biotechnology, as long as they are proved safe and do not pose a risk to public health.
  6. Support legislative and regulatory efforts to grant federal preemptive authority on all food labeling requirements, including the formation of one standardized nutritional labeling system for food labels and grocery store shelf markers that is based on best available science and criteria that is public and readily available to consumers.
  7. Oppose food labeling initiatives that conflict with science and increase food costs without achieving any substantiated benefits.
  8. Support the reauthorization of federal child nutrition programs, recognizing the need for flexibility while building on advancements made to ensure students have access to healthy, nutritious food.

Latest News

  • Farmer Co-ops Welcome Admin...

    Washington, D.C. (February 28, 2017)–The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) welcomed President Trump’s...

  • Statement of NCFC President...

    Washington, D.C. (January 19, 2017)—“On behalf of America’s farmer-owned co-ops, I would like to express our stron...

  • NCFC Statement on House Pas...

    Washington, D.C. (July 14, 2016)--“Today’s House vote—along with yesterday’s White House announcement that Preside...

All News

Twitter Feed

Follow