AFBF celebrates successes, settles policy at convention
Posted on Feb 02, 2024 at 16:56 PM
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2024 convention, held Jan. 20-23 in Salt Lake City, opened with President Zippy Duvall celebrating the organization’s successes and words of encouragement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and keynote speaker Greg Harden, associate athletic director for student counseling at the University of Michigan. It closed with the annual AFBF Meeting of Voting Delegates, where the organization sets its policy stances for the coming year.
In between, an assortment of workshops on the economic landscape, consumer engagement, mental health and more offered approximately 4,500 Farm Bureau members, including some 140 from Georgia, opportunities to learn about ways to improve and expand their farm operations.
Georgia was one of the state Farm Bureaus recognized with AFBF Awards of Excellence. Georgia received awards for Advocacy, Coalitions & Partnerships, Engagement & Outreach and Leadership & Business Development categories.
The Jan. 23 policy session included discussions that pertained to many interests of Georgia farmers, starting with a detailed walkthrough of the farm labor section of the AFBF policy book. The delegates voted in favor of reforming the tournament style pay for poultry producers and fighting for a higher cotton marketing loan rate.
“We stressed the importance of getting a new farm bill done and how urgent it is to get it done now. Labor was another hot topic, especially around stabilizing the wage rate and ensuring that we can make progress on year-round labor workers,” Duvall said. “Another takeaway was artificial intelligence and the need to seize opportunities related to AI while ensuring farmers’ data is protected. A fourth takeaway relates to contract poultry growers. Our delegates called for a fair pay structure and more transparency among poultry companies.”
During his annual address on Jan. 21, Duvall noted Farm Bureau successes in 2023, including the Supreme Court decision on the Waters of the U.S. rule, partnerships to address climate change, and the work of the AFBF Foundation for Agriculture, which has published multiple accurate ag books for children including "I Love Strawberries."
Duvall noted exciting opportunities developing in biotechnology and carbon markets.
He also announced a partnership with the Ad Council to advance awareness of farmers' mental health issues.
Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the closing general session, where he announced more than $200 million in loans and grants for fertilizer production and renewable energy.
“I think it’s important for us to recognize as a country the incredible contribution that is made by farmers and ranchers and producers that, indeed, makes our country the strongest and most powerful in the world,” said Secretary Vilsack during the closing general session. He also discussed conservation, consolidation and loss of farmland.
In addition to general session programming, eight workshops were offered, covering a variety of topics.
Representatives from the chairpersons and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees discussed the challenges and opportunities in drafting and passing a new farm bill during the “Farm Bill Update” workshop.
One of the toughest issues facing lawmakers is how to fund the farm bill. “There is no new money,” said Parish Braden, staff director for the House Committee on Agriculture. “We’re at a time of fiscal restraint.”
The panel also recognized the importance of passing a farm bill in a timely manner. Mike Schmidt, senior advisor for Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, said, “We think there is a path for it. Time is running short, but there is a path for it.”
Farm Bureau’s advocacy extends to the courts. The “Farm Bureau and the Courts” workshop updated attendees on AFBF’s efforts in several important cases, including California’s Proposition 12, WOTUS, and Sackett v. EPA.
During the workshop titled “Intersection Between Farmers & Companies Within the Supply Chain,” representatives from downstream in the food chain shared how they work with farmers as partners in their sustainability efforts, such as carbon sequestration.
Hans Specht, manager of global agriculture at Kraft Heinz, Mallory Flanders, regional sustainability specialist at Cargill, and Tara Vander Dussen, co-host of the Discover Ag podcast and a New Mexico dairy farmer, encouraged farmers to share their stories of the sustainability practices already in place on their farms.
“We have to get the messaging out to consumers that regenerative agriculture is a spectrum,” Vander Dussen explained. “Every year, maybe you’re doing something that’s a little bit better than before and then you’re partnering with a Cargill or a Heinz to learn how to be even better, so sustainability isn’t a ‘yes or no’ conversation.”
In a wide-ranging talk about leadership and self-knowledge, Harden shared his experiences working with big-name Michigan athletes Desmond Howard, Tom Brady and Michael Phelps.
Harden noted that self-love and self-acceptance are two keys to eliminating and replacing self-defeating attitudes and behaviors.
“Human beings are the only creatures with the ability to decide they are not going to be the same today as they were yesterday,” Harden said in front of a slide that said, “Don’t be the same. Be better.”
The 2025 AFBF Convention is scheduled for Jan. 24-29, 2025, in San Antonio, Texas.