Farmer and rancher delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 101st Annual Convention Jan. 17-22 adopted policies to guide the organization’s work in 2020 on key topics ranging from dairy to labor and climate change to conservation compliance.
Ohio Farm Bureau members were represented by delegates Mike Bensman,
Mike Boyert, Frank Burkett III, Jenny Cox, Bill Patterson, Cy Prettyman and
alternative voting delegates Rose Hartschuh and Chris Weaver.
“Delegates from across the nation came together today to look ahead at issues and opportunities facing farms, ranches and rural communities,” said American Farm Bureau Federation Vice President Scott VanderWal. “The 2020 policies ensure we are able to continue producing safe and healthy food, fiber and renewable fuel for our nation and the world.”
Delegates also re-elected American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall and Vice President Scott VanderWal for their third terms. VanderWal served as chair of the meeting on behalf of Duvall, who is grieving the loss of his wife, Bonnie.
Delegates updated labor and immigration policies, emphasizing the need for significant changes to the H-2A program. While AFBF has long had policy in place to ensure an accessible, competitive guest worker program, the updates address problems with the adverse effect wage rate and emphasize the importance of year-round program access to all of agriculture. AFBF looks forward to working with Congress on efforts that align with these policy objectives.
After a year-long process to review ways to modernize Federal Milk Marketing Orders, AFBF delegates voted to support creation of a flexible, farmer- and industry-led milk management system. This includes giving individual dairy farmers a voice by allowing them to vote independently and confidentially on rules governing milk prices. The new dairy policies, when combined, will form a strong foundation to guide the organization during future reform efforts to better coordinate milk supply and demand in the U.S.
There are significant new policies on conservation compliance. Delegates called on USDA to significantly improve program transparency and due process for farmers. They specifically prioritized changes in USDA’s processes for wetland delineations and the appeals process. Delegates also adopted a new policy supporting the repeal of Swampbuster provisions. The changes highlight growing frustration with conservation compliance practices within the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Delegates voted to support allowing a higher THC level in hemp, giving AFBF staff the flexibility to engage in discussions with regulators about the appropriate legal level, and to increase the window of time farmers are allowed to conduct THC testing, acknowledging the many questions about how the testing process will work and the potential for backlogs.
New policies are on the books supporting science-based climate change research and the documentation of agriculture’s tremendous advances toward climate-smart practices. Delegates also made clear they want federal climate change policy to reflect regional variations, and they oppose a state-by-state patchwork of climate change policies.
Beyond policy changes, delegates also elected members to serve on the AFBF board of directors and national program committees.
AFBF President Zippy Duvall and Vice President Scott VanderWal were re-elected to two-year terms.
David Fisher, president of New York Farm Bureau (Northeast Region); Shawn Harding, president of North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation (Southern Region); and Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau (Midwest Region) were elected to fill one-year terms on the AFBF board of directors.
Thirteen other state Farm Bureau presidents were re-elected to two-year terms to represent their regions on the board:
Carl Bednarski, Michigan
Blake Hurst, Missouri
Steve Nelson, Nebraska
Rick Ebert, Pennsylvania
Ryck Suydam, New Jersey
Mark Haney, Kentucky
John Hoblick, Florida
Harry Ott, South Carolina
Jimmy Parnell, Alabama
Wayne Pryor, Virginia
Rich Hillman, Arkansas
Bryan Searle, Idaho
Ron Gibson, Utah
National Program Committees
Morgan Norris of Florida was elected as the new chair of the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee for a one-year term. She will also serve a one-year term on the AFBF board of directors.
Vickie Bryant of Kentucky, Dotty Jensen of Utah and Margaret Gladden of Indiana were elected to two-year terms on the Women’s Leadership Committee. Jennifer Cross of Maryland was re-elected to a two-year term.
Photo credit: American Farm Bureau Federation