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American Farm Bureau Convention Monday Recap: Remarks from Ag Secretary Vilsack, Ag Innovation Challenge and YF&R Awards, Farm Bill Congressional Discussion and More

AFBF Staff

The American Farm Bureau Convention continued today with remarks from the United States Secretary of Agriculture, an exciting slate of workshops, an inspiring keynote address and several awards presentations.

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. 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 all four corners of the Agriculture committees discussed the challenges and opportunities in drafting and passing a new farm bill. They gathered for 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.”

Barn Owl Precision Ag, a startup from Colorado that manufactures a fully autonomous robot that supports farmers as they plant crops, control weeds and collect soil samples, was named the 2024 Ag Innovation Challenge winner, while Udder Ways from New York was named runner-up. Barn Owl will receive a total of $50,000 in prize money sponsored in part by Farm Credit, Bayer Crop Science, John Deere, Farm Bureau Bank, Farm Bureau Financial Services and T-Mobile.

Secret Garden Bees, an Ag Innovation Challenge semi-finalist, won the People’s Choice Award, which is decided by public vote, and received $5,000 in additional prize money. Learn more about the Ag Innovation Challenge here.

Winners of the Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award, Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture competitions were announced. Daniel and Megan Roberts of Minnesota won the Achievement Award, Matthew McClanahan of Tennessee won the Discussion Meet and Justin Hargrove of Tennessee won the Excellence in Agriculture Award.

Also during the convention, members of the AFBF YF&R Committee elected a new executive team. Kevin Lussier of Florida will be the committee’s chair for 2024, taking over the position in March at the end of the YF&R Conference, and will serve for one year. He will also serve a one-year term on the AFBF board of directors.

Clarissa Cauthorn of Missouri was elected vice chair and Haily Sand of Wisconsin was elected secretary. They will each serve one-year terms.

Tuesday Preview

The annual meeting of AFBF voting delegates will take place tomorrow. Delegates will set Farm Bureau policy for 2024. Media registered for convention may attend.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall is available for interviews by request following the close of the voting delegate session. To schedule an interview, contact Mike Tomko, miket@fb.org, or Bailey Corwine, baileyc@fb.org.

All livestreamed convention content, including President Duvall’s keynote address and Cultivation Center Stage programming, will be available on YouTube.

Press Contact

Mike Tomko
Director, Communications
(202) 406-3642

Bailey Corwine
Media Relations Specialist
(202) 406-3643