Immigration reform, the 2007 Farm Bill and animal identification were among the topics discussed Thursday by farmers and ranchers from across the state at the annual convention of the Arizona Farm Bureau.
The nonprofit organization represents more than 4,000 active farmers and ranchers and 14,000 other individuals and businesses associated with Arizona agriculture.
Delegates from Arizona’s 15 county farm bureau chapters gathered in the first day of the two-day conference to hash out issues and define its goals for the upcoming year.
"Issues here are different than issues in other parts of the country . . . We folks have to come together as an organized voice to be heard," Arizona Farm Bureau spokesman Cary Blake said.
Mesa cotton farmer Adam Hatley, owner of Associated Farms, said it’s important he and others participate and attend the convention to show lawmakers that Arizona’s agricultural industry is active and involved.
"The agricultural industry has so much regulation. In terms of policy, it’s important that agriculture is represented and our positions are taken to Washington, D.C.," Hatley said.
Such positions included the identification of animals, such as cattle.
Farmers expressed concerns over the ability of others to fabricate legitimate brands and ear tags, whether Arizona’s ranchers will have to foot the bill for a national program and how that information will be used.
Some ranchers worried that with some type of national database, competitors would learn proprietary information, such as where particular cattle are ranched, how many head a particular rancher has and where that rancher is selling his herd.
Members adopted a position that, among other things, calls for the federal government to bear the program’s cost with the information available only to state and federal animal disease authorities.
That statement as well as other positions adopted by Arizona farmers will be presented at the American Farm Bureau’s national convention to be held in January in Nashville, Tenn., Blake said.
The convention will continue today.