By Cyndie Shearing
New leaders recently took the reins at several state Farm Bureaus. In this article, newly elected state Farm Bureau presidents share their thoughts on current challenges facing farmers and ranchers, their vision for the future and what they’re looking forward to most in 2022.
What’s the biggest challenge facing farmers and ranchers today?
Jeb Smith, Florida – Profitability is the greatest challenge our producers face. Many things erode the ability of farmers and ranchers to remain economically viable: taxes, regulation, trade agreements, labor issues, consolidating markets, and water quantity and quality. If producers cannot make money, they cannot farm. In the third-most populous state with a rapidly growing population, it is highly probable that this land will be sold and developed never to return to agriculture.
Brent Johnson, Iowa – Farmers and ranchers are facing a lot of challenges today, particularly coming from Washington, D.C., in the form of taxation and regulation, which can be extremely detrimental for our family farms. A prime example of that is the Waters of the U.S. rule. We had a good structure in place with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule which is clear, workable and easy for our members to understand. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new rule that will likely bring back confusion and uncertainty for farmers.
Farm Bureau members, and all of U.S. agriculture, are committed to protecting water quality, but a lack of clarity and transparency in EPA’s proposed water rules is quite worrisome. This proposed rule would make it impossible for farmers and ranchers to understand what they can and cannot do on their land, which would negatively impact our conservation and water quality efforts.
Dan Glessing, Minnesota – I think the biggest challenge facing farmers and ranchers today is the lack of free time. It seems that if we want to have a successful business, it takes countless hours to manage and carry out the work resulting in a squeeze on our free time.
Cyndi Johnson, Montana – One of the biggest challenges for farmers and ranchers today is successfully navigating the ever-changing regulatory environment and policies imposed by people who are long disconnected from or never took the opportunity to learn about agriculture and how critical it is to America’s future.
Angela Bailey, Oregon – Well, I wish there was just one challenge. We still have market disruptions and a big disconnect between what farm and ranch families receive for their products and what the consumer is paying for these products. I believe we are all concerned about inflation’s impact on our farming operations.
In addition, many producers face a lack of available employees and public policies that make the labor shortage worse. Despite that challenge, there are others depending on our regions and what we produce. Fortunately, we have a solid and effective Farm Bureau staff and engaged leaders working for us on all fronts.
Eric Mayberry, Tennessee – One of our biggest challenges continues to be properly communicating the true story of agriculture to our non-farm friends. So many people believe they are not part of agriculture when actually their very lives depend on ag every day. With that misconception, it is easy for them to attack agriculture. People make decisions on who they vote for, what types of food they buy, the organizations they belong to and causes they support. We must re-envision new and more effective ways to reach these citizens with our wonderful story of farming and ranching!
What is your vision for your state Farm Bureau?
Jeb Smith – My vision for our state is the proper nurturing of our grassroots. It is easy to be distracted by the production of the fruit but it is imperative to take care of the roots. Our grassroots (county Farm Bureaus) must be in good condition: financially solvent, educated with clear, consistent and concise communication, and possessing stable, encouraged leadership. If we tend to the roots, we will see a quality, high-yielding crop.
Brent Johnson – The Iowa Farm Bureau has so many strengths, and I want to build on those and continue to push the boundaries. A strong and vibrant agriculture economy in Iowa means opportunities for our rural communities and thriving families. Ag is the center of so many things in our daily lives, like food, fuel and fiber. We need to work every day to ensure a sustainable future for our family farms and agriculture.
Additionally, I’d like to see more young people in Iowa get involved in 4-H and FFA, so they can build an appreciation for agriculture as they go to college and start their careers. In Iowa, one in five jobs is dependent upon agriculture, so it’s a significant driver for our state’s economy and livelihood, offering countless opportunities for the next generation of ag leaders.
I’m also interested in seeing how I can integrate my data experience to help farmers be successful with precision ag, especially with farmers facing surging input costs to raise their crops and livestock.
Dan Glessing – My vision for our Farm Bureau is to be known as a leader in policy, leadership development and promoting what we do across Minnesota. Often people don’t know what we do within Farm Bureau. I want to do a better job telling our story, so people know what we offer not just for farm families but for rural communities as well.
Cyndi Johnson – Montana Farm Bureau Federation is robust and respected as the “go to” farm and ranch organization in the state. My vision for MFBF, in addition to growing our membership, is to continue to the long legacy of providing guidance and growth opportunities to young agriculturists, sound policy and advocacy for Montana agriculture, and effective programs, leadership development and education to keep our rural communities vital.
Angela Bailey – I would say that in many ways my vision is the same as those who led Farm Bureau 100 years ago. We need strong, engaged and active county Farm Bureaus. Our county Farm Bureaus are the foundation of our great state and national Farm Bureau organizations. Being effective for our members and leveraging that success into more strength in our grassroots structure is the future of a strong Farm Bureau.
Eric Mayberry – Agriculture is the number one economic industry in Tennessee and Farm Bureau is considered the Voice of Agriculture. My vision would be to further collaborate with all commodity groups, stakeholders, lawmakers and citizens to bring a renewed awareness of the important role our farmers have in making our state so successful.
What are you looking forward to in 2022?
Jeb Smith – I am looking forward to the election of a new state commissioner of agriculture. Wilton Simpson, president of the Florida Senate, is a past county Farm Bureau board president and state board member. The Florida Farm Bureau FarmPAC has endorsed his candidacy and is anxious to see his election into this vital seat for our industry and our precious farmers and ranchers.
Brent Johnson – I am looking forward to hitting the ground running in 2022 to carry on the successful Farm Bureau mission. I’ve been impressed by Farm Bureau ever since I was a young farmer and just starting my involvement with the organization. I am excited to continue meeting with our members across the state and listening to their concerns and goals to carry us forward.
I believe the main purpose of a farm organization is to create a unified, collective voice to increase our influence on state, national and international issues that impact agriculture. With our effective grassroots policy process, Farm Bureau is the best organization at doing that, and I’m looking forward to leading that charge here in Iowa.
Dan Glessing – In 2022, I’m looking forward to getting out and seeing the great activities that our counties are doing to help showcase what we do and who we are. I am also looking forward to hopefully getting a little closer to a normal rain pattern. Last year it was really dry in parts of our state, putting extra pressure on our farmers and ranchers.
Cyndi Johnson – I know I have huge shoes to fill! I’m looking forward to the challenges of learning more about commodities and critters different than those I’m accustomed to and being able to engage personally with both members of my own Farm Bureau and those across the country.
Angela Bailey – Without a doubt, I am hopeful we can get back to a sense of normalcy in all parts our lives. I hope the marketplace rewards farm and ranch families for the work we do and the risks we take. And I hope our upcoming elections are a chance to restore some balance at the state and national levels.
Eric Mayberry – I am very much looking forward to traveling our state and visiting the many diverse farms and communities that our Farm Bureau members call home.
Cyndie Shearing is a director of communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation.