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American Farm Bureau Federation Convention Coverage from Nashville

American Farm Bureau Federation Convention Coverage from Nashville

1/7/2018 7:13:00 PM/Categories: General News, Today's Top 5, Livestock, Grains

The American Farm Bureau Federation's 208 Convention & IDEAg Trade Show is underway in Nashville, TN. The Northern Ag Network's Lane Nordlund is there and brings us the latest.

Farm Bureau Elects New Grassroots Leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 9, 2018 – Delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention elected members to serve as board and committee leaders for the organization.


AFBF President Zippy Duvall and Vice President Scott VanderWal were re-elected to two-year terms.


Bryan Searle, president of Idaho Farm Bureau, and Ron Gibson, president of Utah Farm Bureau, were elected to two-year terms on the AFBF board of directors, representing the Western Region. Hans McPherson, president of Montana Farm Bureau, was elected to a one-year term, representing the Western Region. Rodd Moesel, president of Oklahoma Farm Bureau, was elected to a one-year term, representing the Southern Region.


Twelve other state Farm Bureau presidents were re-elected to two-year terms to represent their regions on the board: Carl Bednarski, Michigan; Jim Holte, Wisconsin; Blake Hurst, Missouri; and Steve Nelson, Nebraska (Midwest Region); Mark Haney, Kentucky; John Hoblick, Florida; Harry Ott, South Carolina; Jimmy Parnell, Alabama; Wayne Pryor, Virginia; and Randy Veach, Arkansas (Southern Region); and Rick Ebert, Pennsylvania and Ryck Suydam, New Jersey (Northeast Region).


Russell Kohler of Utah was elected the new chair of the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee for a one-year term, which makes him a member of the AFBF board of directors.

Elected to two-year terms on the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee were Cindy Ramsey, Indiana; Jennifer Cross, Maryland; and Lou Nave, Tennessee. Lillian Ostendorf of Montana was re-elected to a two-year term on the committee.


AFBF’s 100th Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show will be held in New Orleans, Jan. 11-16, 2019.

Farm Bureau Re-elects President Zippy Duvall, Sets Agenda for 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 9, 2018 – Delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention today unanimously re-elected AFBF President Zippy Duvall. Delegates also approved measures to help assure a prosperous agricultural and rural economy in the coming year and beyond.


Resolutions approved by farmer and rancher delegates from across the nation ran the gamut of issues, from trade to regulatory reform, crop insurance, biotechnology and more.


“Today’s actions give us a clear roadmap at a time when farmers are on the verge of their fifth consecutive year of shrinking net farm income,” Duvall said. “Despite these difficulties, we remain optimistic: Official Washington feels more like a partner than it did just a short time ago. We have real opportunities to make progress in policy that we have not had in the past.”


Among other things, delegates approved measures supporting:

  • An improved Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program to decrease risk-management disparities across counties
  • A flexible cotton support program that considers cotton seed, cotton lint or both to help beleaguered cotton growers


  • Strengthened and more flexible risk management and safety-net programs for dairy farmers


  • Permission for workers to seek employment from more than one farmer under the H2A program


  • Trade and trade agreements that strengthen market opportunities for U.S. agriculture


  • Elimination of sunset provisions in trade agreements, to give certainty to businesses into the future


  • Modification of NAFTA to improve market access to difficult Canadian dairy markets, in addition to improved food-safety standards for imported products


  • An end to use of non-GMO labels on products that do not have GMO alternatives


  • A $1 per member increase in dues paid by state affiliates of the American Farm Bureau Federation


  • Support for the use of gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR, along with a voluntary and uniform labeling program for such products


Trump Promotes Rural Development Initiative in Speech to Farm Bureau Members

NASHVILLE, Tenn., January, 8, 2018 – President Donald Trump today unveiled a major initiative designed to strengthen a rural economy that has lagged urban areas in recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-2008. Trump signed two executive orders that fund and streamline the expansion of rural broadband access after an address to 7,400 farmers and ranchers gathered at American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention.

In addition to economic development, Trump touched on issues of particular importance to agriculturists such as regulations, labor and trade. He praised farmers for their enduring values. “We are witnessing a new era of patriotism, prosperity and pride—and at the forefront of this exciting new chapter is the great American farmer.” Farmers, Trump said, “embody the values of hard work, grit, self-reliance and sheer determination.”

The president spent much of his address decrying the costs of excessive regulation and tallying the rules his administration has moved to eliminate.“We are also putting an end to the regulatory assault on your way of life. And it was an assault,” he said. Trump singled out the Waters of the United States rule, now being withdrawn following an executive order he signed in the first weeks of his administration. “It sounds so nice, it sounds so innocent, and it was a disaster. People came to me about it and they were crying – men who were tough and strong, women who were tough and strong – because I gave them back their property and I gave them back their farms. We ditched the rule.”

Trump acknowledged controversy over the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade agreements that account for roughly a quarter of U.S. agriculture revenues. “To level the playing field for all of our farmers and ranchers as well as our manufacturers we are reviewing all of our trade agreements,” he said. “On NAFTA I am working very hard to get a better deal for our farmers and ranchers and manufacturers.”

Trump promised the farm bill would continue to provide a safety net for farmers who are now entering their fifth year of declining incomes. “I look forward to working with Congress to pass the farm bill on time so that it delivers for all of you, and I support a bill that includes crop insurance,” he said.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said Trump’s visit marked a watershed in D.C. politics.

“Farmers and ranchers have too long faced burdensome regulations,” Duvall said. “This president understands the toll government overreach has taken on ordinary business and is moving swiftly to clear the way for prosperity. We are moving into yet another year of economic difficulty. Relief could not have come at a better time.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Highlights Priorities, Accomplishments in New Administration and USDA

NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 8, 2018 – The Agriculture Department is being reoriented with a new focus on farmers, its customers, and has already built a record of success, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said today. He made his comments at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Nashville.

In his opening remarks, Perdue spoke about the importance of trade to U.S. agriculture and the priority of successful NAFTA negotiations.

“To get a deal, we need all sides to seriously roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Perdue said. “We have put a number of proposals on the table to modernize NAFTA, and critically for agriculture, to address key sectors left out of the original agreement – dairy and poultry tariffs in Canada. Now, we want to see our negotiating partners step up and engage so we can get the deal done.”

In Perdue’s first eight months as secretary, USDA has already reopened the Chinese market to American beef, signed a protocol to allow exports of U.S. rice to China for the first time ever and eased European Union regulations on citrus exports. South Korea lifted its ban on imports of U.S. poultry, while Argentina has allowed American pork back into the country for the first time since 1992.

Perdue said USDA has been rolling back excessive regulations following a directive from President Trump. He cited the Waters of the U.S. rule as an example of regulatory overreach negatively affecting farmers.

“You know, sometimes a mud puddle is just a mud puddle,” he said. “We don’t need the federal government coming in and regulating everything to death.”

USDA has targeted 27 final rules for elimination that will save $56.15 million annually. Perdue asked farmers and ranchers to bring any onerous regulations to USDA’s attention by visiting the agency’s website.

Looking ahead to President Trump’s address later in the day to the Farm Bureau members, Perdue emphasized that the president understands how important rural America is as the breadbasket of the world.

“It is proof of the importance that he places on all of us – rural and urban, north, south, east, west, and Midwest – working together to make our country even greater,” he said.

Perdue highlighted USDA’s newly released Economic Research Service report that shows 99 percent of American farms are family farms that account for 90 percent of production. President Trump, he said, understands that family farms are small businesses that must turn a profit to provide for their families. Perdue cited recent tax reform as a solution that will allow farmers to keep more of what they earn in order to reinvest in their operations.

Perdue said a report from the administration’s Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity will contain more than 100 practical, actionable recommendations for economic growth in five key areas: e-connectivity, quality of life, rural workforce, technology and economic development.

In conclusion, Perdue praised America and American farmers.

“One of the biggest reasons that we are the envy of the world is gathered right here in this room – the farmers of America. You feed this country and the world, with all of your labors every day,” Perdue said.

“The bonds of faith are directly tied to our liberty,” he said in closing. “Every time you plant a seed in the ground, you are exhibiting your faith in a bountiful harvest. There is nothing more American than that.”


Farmers Explore the Challenges and Rewards of Organic Farming


NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 8, 2018 – A panel of Farm Bureau members who farm organically discussed the challenges and rewards of choosing organic farming at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show.


Panelist Tom Schwarz, an organic farmer from Bertrand, Nebraska, who currently serves on AFBF’s Organic and Direct Marketing Issue Advisory Committee, said organic was a viable option for his family after going through financial, weather and estate planning challenges.


“From my perspective, organic has a variety of challenges including intense management and record keeping, social pressures, weed management and the need for quick adaptability to change and problem solving,” Schwarz said. “But I love that the customers appreciate what we do.


“We need as farmers to start looking at customers. My job is to say ‘I can do that,’” Schwarz said. “We as farmers are not here to make judgements on consumers.”


Blake Alexandre’s family said that the journey to organic production made sense when they thought about creating a business option that would be viable for their five children, after evaluating their financial goals. They focused on life beginning in the soil and producing the most nutrient-dense milk, eggs and meat on their farm in Northern California.


“We don’t need to be apologetic about what we do,” said Alexandre. “We are farming like my grandfather did only with more knowledge.


“We value working hard and working smart, and we recognize that we must remain profitable to sustain the business we depend upon,” said Alexandre. “We recognize life is not easy and life on the farm can be even more difficult. We value and surround our business with the personalities and positive attitudes of ‘we can do it.’”


Carolyn Olson serves on the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s board of directors and chairs AFBF’s Organic and Direct Marketing Issue Advisory Committee. She said she and her husband, Jonathon, had been raising food-grade soybeans to add value to their crops. In 1996, buyers began asking if the soybeans were organic. Since then, they transitioned all 1,100 acres to certified organic while raising their hogs conventionally.


“Jonathan and I have found that we really enjoy the process of farming organically. We are always reevaluating our weed control methods and changing how we do things,” said Olson. “Being open and honest about what we do and how we farm has helped relationships. It has also helped to create a more positive view of organic agriculture in general.


“I believe that doing what one wants to do is freedom. Doing what you love doing is happiness,” said Olson. “We love what we do.”


Attorney Shares How Due Process Helps Fight Government Red Tape

NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 8, 2018 – To combat the ever-increasing number of burdensome government relations impacting American farmers and ranchers, public interest law firms are working with the courts to reverse the trend of ignoring due process related to administrative rules.


“The courts often defer to agencies’ views of the facts, so [farmers and ranchers] lose their ability to challenge the facts,” said Tony Francois, senior attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm based in Sacramento, California. Francois addressed farmers and ranchers at a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Nashville.


Francois’ focus has been the defense of property rights threatened by federal environmental statutes, namely the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act. Francois said his firm was working to rebuild protections through recent and upcoming judicial decisions that would help those in agriculture going forward regain protections of due process.


The attorney reminded attendees that the intended purpose of America’s legal process was to ensure that no one branch or agency held all the power or made decisions in secret. The protections of due process are also designed to protect the accused against government power being used for improper motives.


Francois said that while the powers of enforcing the law and interpreting the law were separated intentionally; they often get put back together in the administrative agencies.


“This was not what was originally intended,” Francois said.


Francois explained that administrative agencies have historically skirted this separation through delegation and deference. He elaborated that Congress often delegates to agencies the writing of their own rules, including deciding whether or not to hold hearings. 


The judiciary will give deference to agencies as experts in their field, especially in terms of environmental laws. This becomes a problem when the agency presents the facts of their enforcement without a neutral decision-maker to ensure fairness for the other party.


“While the USDA has hearing officers outside of normal program staff, the EPA and Fish & Wildlife do not. They have decision makers who are on the staff. This is a problem,” Francois said. “Decision makers need to explain the decision process [of an enforcement action] and explain whose evidence was more persuasive.”


Despite the challenges of recent decades, Francois said there is evidence to suggest the courts are becoming more balanced.


“It could be an easy fix, just inserting text that requires a hearing instead of whenever a decision-maker receives evidence of a violation,” Francois said.


While other countries may have judicial systems that may be more efficient, Francois added, without the protections of due process, those systems are susceptible to abuse and corruption.


Farmers and ranchers looking for answers to specific questions related to their farm should contact a local legal representative.



Gene Editing Holds Potential to Revolutionize Agriculture


NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 8, 2018 – Gene editing holds the potential to revolutionize agriculture, according to expert speakers at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show.


Addressing farmer and rancher attendees in separate workshops, the University of Florida’s Dr. Kevin Folta and Dr. Alison Van Eenanaam with the University of California, Davis, coupled their enthusiasm for the practical benefits gene editing can bring with calls for supporters to share the science with consumers.


“Gene editing will revolutionize agriculture,” said Folta. “Farmers and scientists need to be at the forefront, driving the conversation on innovation and its benefits to consumers.” He cited non-browning fruits and vegetables and an end to citrus greening disease as production agriculture examples.


“We need to share the science and communicate the benefits of gene editing, starting with medical benefits that consumers can support and relate to,” he said. Cancer therapy for infants and elimination of food allergies developed through gene editing are just a couple of examples.


Van Eenanaam described gene editing as “the cherry on top of conventional animal breeding programs,” which has the potential to benefit farmers through applications such as disease resistance and hornless dairy cattle. She noted that the current regulatory environment is a major stumbling block to making applications of gene editing technology widely available. In fact, there are no animals produced with gene editing available in the U.S.


“Regulatory processes should be proportional to risk,” Van Eenanaam said. “The regulatory burden for animals produced with gene editing is disproportionately high, with unaccountable delays. There is an urgent need to ensure a science-based process focused on novel product risk for the use of gene editing in ag breeding programs,” she said.



Young Farmers and Ranchers Round up Awards


NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 8, 2018 – Winners of the Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award, Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture competitions were announced today at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show. Young farmers and ranchers from around the country competed for the awards by demonstrating knowledge of and achievement in agriculture, as well as commitment to promoting the agriculture industry.


Russell and Amelia Kent of Louisiana won the Achievement Award. They are the winners of a new Ford truck, courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance, and will also receive paid registration to the AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference in Reno, Nevada, Feb. 16-19.

The runners-up in the Achievement Award contest are Justin and Lori McClellan of Virginia. They will receive a Case IH Farmall 50A tractor courtesy of Case IH. Ben and Katie Furnish of Kentucky are the third place finalists, receiving a Case IH 40” combination roll cabinet and top chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH. In addition, they will take home $2,000 worth of Stanley Black & Decker merchandise, courtesy of Black & Decker. Fourth place finalist Cassie Lyman of Arizona receives a Case IH 40” combination roll cabinet and top chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH.

The Achievement Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who have excelled in their farming or ranching operations and exhibited superior leadership abilities. Participants are evaluated on a combination of their agricultural operation’s growth and financial progress, Farm Bureau leadership and leadership outside of Farm Bureau.

Martha Smith of Colorado won the Discussion Meet. She is the winner of a new Ford truck, courtesy of Farm Bureau Financial Services. She will also receive paid registration to the AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference in Reno, Nevada, Feb. 16-19.


The runner-up in the Discussion Meet contest is Jenny Freeborn of Oregon. She will receive a Case IH Farmall 50A tractor courtesy of Case IH. Jared Knock of South Dakota is the third place finalist, receiving a Case IH 40” combination roll cabinet and top chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH. In addition, he will take home $2,000 worth of Stanley Black & Decker merchandise, courtesy of Black & Decker. Fourth place finalist Matt Jakubik of Michigan receives a Case IH 40” combination roll cabinet and top chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH.

The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic.


Greg and Rose Hartschuh of Ohio won the Excellence in Agriculture Award. They will receive a new Ford truck, courtesy of Country Financial, and will also receive paid registration to the AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference in Reno, Nevada, Feb. 16-19.

The runners-up in the Excellence in Agriculture contest are Casey and Stacey Phillips of Virginia. They will receive a Case IH Farmall 50A tractor courtesy of Case IH. Robert and Lindsay Elliott of Tennessee won third place, receiving a Case IH 40” combination roll cabinet and top chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH. In addition, they will take home $2,000 worth of Stanley Black & Decker merchandise, courtesy of Black & Decker. Fourth place finalists Wade and Shelby Hampton of Maryland receive a Case IH 40” combination roll cabinet and top chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH.


The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who do not derive the majority of their income from an agricultural operation, but who actively contribute and grow through their involvement in agriculture, their leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.


Also at the convention, members of the AFB YF&R Committee elected Russ Kohler of Utah as the committee’s chair for 2018. Kohler will take over as chair in February, at the end of the committee’s leadership conference, and will serve for one year. He will also serve a one-year term on the AFBF board of directors.



Montana Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Competes in AFBF YF&R Event

Montana Farm Bureau Discussion Meet winner Sophi Davis competed in two rounds of the national YF&R during the American Farm Bureau Federation Discussion Meet January 6 at the Opryland Hotel and Resort in Nashville. The Discussion Meet is meant to resemble a committee meeting with an end goal of determining possible solutions to a question. The first question: With a growing demand for U.S. farm products abroad, how can agriculture overcome public skepticism of foreign trade to negotiate new trade agreements and open new world markets?


“The best way to deal with a population that is skeptical is take a look at why they are skeptical,” Davis said. “Is it because of protectionism? Is it political? I think the best way to address our constituents is explain to them it’s hitting them in the pocket. In addition, we need to divide agricultural trade from the rest of the trade, such as automotive, is not the same.”