Scott DeBose wins Farm Bureau Discussion Meet touting compromise, responsibility
By Margaret A. Lisi, Farm Bureau News Staff WriterNEW ORLEANS — A Sabine Parish cattle producer said while farming and ranching have never been professions for the faint of heart, increased federal regulations are making things worse in farm country.
Scott DeBose, a rancher from Many, said local, state and federal regulations have become as much a threat to farmers and ranchers as droughts and hurricanes. His remarks during the Farm Bureau’s Discussion Meet here lead to a victory over three other finalists who debated the topic Thursday, June 27.
DeBose, who raises cattle with his father Joe, said lawmakers and farmers should work together to craft legislation that benefits both farmers and the general public, while allowing farmers to exercise personal responsibility for the crops they grow and the livestock they raise.
“A legislators’ job is to keep as many people as possible happy,” DeBose said. “Our agenda is not the only one they’re hearing. Our voices are not the only ones asking for con
sideration. Building relationships with our legislators is vital, but demonstrating that we are willing to compromise on issues, while not compromising our values, is key to influencing regulation, both pending and passed.”
The topic of this year’s Discussion Meet challenged participants to find solutions to issues affecting them. Federal regulations on production agriculture are generally accepted as the No. 1 challenge to profitability among the nation’s farmers and ranchers.
DeBose said increased regulations from Washington are costing all small businesses both time and money. Unlike the corner retailer, farmers are always at the mercy of Mother Nature and the world market. DeBose said the more lawmakers understand the challenges faced by agriculture, the more likely they will be to work with producers to keep them in business.
“Farmers feed people,” DeBose said. “No one else does that, really. We can’t do much about the weather or global pricing markets, but we can have an impact on the rules that govern what we do. We need to constantly tell lawmakers about the unique challenges we face as an industry. We have to make them understand that what we do is vital to the security and economics of our country.”
DeBose said agriculture isn’t the only business impacted. The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy put the total price tag of complying with federal regulations at $1.75 trillion in 2008. Costs are 36 percent higher for small businesses, which includes many farmers and ranchers. Small business creates 60 to 80 percent of new jobs in the U.S., he said.
In that same report, the SBA said the Environmental Protection Agency planned to advance 29 proposed major rules and 173 others in 2013, something DeBose said was “an unprecedented level of regulatory action.”
“Statistics like this may lead some to believe that regulations are put in place, often with onerous fines, to balance budgets on the backs of farmers,” he said. “In truth, it may be more true that groups with differing agendas push for regulations without considering rules already on the books.”
Other finalists in the contest debated the impact of differing state regulations, even among regulatory agencies in the same state.
Amelia Levin Kent, a cattle producer from Tangipahoa, said on a recent trip to a leafy greens farm in California, the farmer explained that the Leafy Green Board required a clean border around his fields to reduce rodent populations, but at the same time the local Ditch Board required a grassy border.
“The farmer said he had to break one regulation or the other,” Kent said. “So he went with the one with the lowest fine. How can anyone be expected to operate like that, knowing that both regulations will be enforced? What kind of choice is that when you’re just trying to do the right thing?”
The finalists agreed California’s agriculture regulations are extraordinarily onerous, and the state is considered a bellwether for ag regulations that will eventually impact the rest of the country.
“We’re busy growing food while others are working to forward their non-ag issues,” said DeBose in his closing statement. “We need to fight for agriculture or there might not be a farm to go back to. Finding and supporting regulations that benefit everyone, not just producers, is a first step.”
DeBose and Kent were joined by Stephen Simoneaux, of Assumption Parish, who farms sugarcane with his father, and Kassi Berard, who works on her family’s farm in St. Martin Parish. The Discussion Meet was one of many events held during the 91st annual Louisiana Farm Bureau convention. The Louisiana Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general farm and ranch organization.