Duvall celebrates accomplishments, points to bright future
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall welcomed AFBF members to Georgia and celebrated the organization’s accomplishments during his annual address at the opening session of the 2022 AFBF Convention in Atlanta on Jan. 9.
Building on the convention theme, “Growing tomorrow, together,” Duvall noted that he resumed visits around the country in the past year, stopping in 26 states and Puerto Rico for what he likened to family visits, and promised travel to more states in the coming year.
“It is good to see you all, and I'm so glad we can be here together,” Duvall said. “Welcome to Georgia. It's an honor to host you all in my home state. As your president, I see that the future is bright for agriculture as we work to get through this pandemic.”
He emphasized Farm Bureau’s role of ensuring that farmers’ needs are communicated to national leaders in Washington, D.C. Among these were the Waters of the United States rule and how it affects farmers in Louisiana, how delays in processing H-2A visas hurt farms in Arizona and other states, the realities of the border crisis, difficulties for ranchers selling their animals through livestock markets in Kansas, and how farm bill programs are helping farmers in Puerto Rico.
“The American Farm Bureau team is sharing your stories on Capitol Hill, with the administration, and through many communications channels that reach far and wide,” Duvall said. “Sharing those stories is important within our organization, too, because we are stronger when members understand what their neighbors in other regions are facing.”
Duvall celebrated poll results that showed 87% of Americans trust U.S. farmers. He noted the success of the #stillfarming social media campaign, which reached more than 110 million people, assuring them that while the pandemic ground many parts of the country to a halt, farmers continued their work to make sure everyone is fed and clothed.
“You showed the American people that you have their backs and as you did that, trust in farmers went up when trust in just about everything else seemed to plummet,” he said.
Duvall touted AFBF’s work to build consensus on climate change among a variety of groups, including environmentalists who are often critical of farm practices. Through the development of the Farmers for a Sustainable Future and the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA), AFBF was able to show how agriculturalists actually work to sustain environmental resources
“We started not by focusing on our differences, but by looking at our common goals,” Duvall said, pointing out that some of the key policy recommendations developed by the FACA were in line with established AFBF policy.
“The alliance recommendations have not only guided climate discussions in D.C., they are the foundation of legislation and USDA programs that respect farmers,” Duvall said.
Duvall discussed the national push to improve infrastructure, including roads, bridges, ports and waterways as well as expanding communications technology that allows greater access to broadband internet. The infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in 2021 does all of that.
“We are finally on our way to leveling the playing field for farmers, ranchers, rural hospitals, rural schools, and all rural Americans with a historic investment in broadband,” Duvall said.
All of this, he said, points to a bright future for American farming.
“From our grassroots advocacy to our leadership development programs to our work together to strengthen our communities through resources like Farm State of Mind, you have every reason to be proud of what we are achieving together,” Duvall said. “Someone asked me the other day what I thought the future of Farm Bureau looked like. I didn't hesitate for a moment in saying the future of Farm Bureau is bright. And that's because we invest in people with a common, noble purpose and believe in the possibilities of tomorrow. That's the Farm Bureau way and yes, the future is very bright.”