Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by AFBF President Zippy Duvall
2022 American Farm Bureau Convention
Newsroom / January 9, 2022
Thank you for being part of this family.
It is good to see you all, and I'm so glad we can be here together. Welcome to Georgia. It's an honor to host you all in my home state.
I'll admit even I was a little skeptical to bring convention back to Atlanta after the city froze over when we were here in 2011. I was very proud of how the people of Atlanta continued to serve us, but I'm sure our friends from the North found our challenges with the snow and ice very entertaining as they watched us try to get through it all.
In all seriousness, thank you for joining us, both in person and virtually.
You know, Farm Bureau truly is a family, and we have felt that more than ever before.
[Introduce Duvall Family]
As your president, I see that the future is bright for agriculture as we work to get through this pandemic.
I was excited to be back on the road this last year to visit with as many of you as possible. I visited 26 states and Puerto Rico, and I hope to see the rest of you soon. Meeting with you helps me serve all farmers and ranchers.
I bring the stories from your farms to our nation's leaders and lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
To name just a few, in Louisiana I saw firsthand how regulations like WOTUS can impact farms. Farmers in Arizona made it clear how H-2A visa delays are hurting agriculture. The shocking realities of the border crisis became very real when I visited our southern border states. In Kansas, farmers weren't shy about sharing their concerns around livestock markets. And in Puerto Rico, the power of farm bill programs to strengthen farmers was on full display.
The American Farm Bureau team is sharing your stories on the Hill, with the administration, and through many communications channels that reach far and wide. Sharing those stories is important within our organization, too, because we are stronger when members understand what their neighbors in other regions are facing.
Our theme this year is Growing Tomorrow, Together. People. Purpose. Possibilities. What a great description of our commitment, both as farmers and ranchers and as Farm Bureau.
Growing tomorrow requires taking on new challenges and embracing possibilities because we believe each season can be better than the last. Growing tomorrow requires continued innovation to ensure we can feed a growing population while caring for our natural resources. Growing tomorrow requires us to learn from each other - lifting one another up and together making our voices heard.
We should be proud to share our story.
The American farmer is one of the most trusted professions today. That may not always feel true when you see negative headlines, but our polling shows that 87% of Americans trust farmers and ranchers.
The proof is in the response to stories you all shared through #StillFarming. In an age when social media can be a negative place, this positive campaign of sharing farm stories took off, reaching over 110 million people. You showed the American people that you have their backs. And as you did that, trust in farmers went up when trust in just about everything else seemed to plummet.
And in that same spirit, Farm Bureau has your back. Over our 102-year history, Farm Bureau has become the leader we are today by adapting and working with every administration and every Congress. But, what has never changed is how we stand tall for you. Adapting doesn't mean forgetting our roots. We remain grounded in our purpose, which strengthens us to make this time, our time.
One example is our leadership on sustainability and climate policy. Your American Farm Bureau stepped-up and stepped-in to make this time ours by ensuring you are recognized for your achievements and treated as partners. Two years ago, we saw the writing on the wall: major food companies making climate commitments with big implications for agriculture; Congress ramping-up legislative proposals; and the public was increasingly calling for climate action. We knew that if we weren't at the table, we would be on the table.
The American Farm Bureau co-founded two coalitions to lead the way. One was Farmers for a Sustainable Future. It highlighted our great achievements across America's farm and ranch land.
The second, and perhaps more surprising, is the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. This historic alliance brought together agriculture, forestry, food, and even environmental groups.
How did we do that? We started by looking not at our differences, but at our common goals. Together, we highlighted the great work being done on sustainability. We established principles and made policy proposals to advance voluntary, market-driven approaches.
And you know what? The alliance recommendations have not only guided climate discussions in D.C., they are the foundation of legislation and USDA programs that respect farmers.
I personally cannot recall another time when I've heard so many leaders on both sides of the aisle acknowledge U.S. agriculture's leadership on sustainability.
But we aren't hanging our hat here. We will stay vigilant and vocal to ensure you have the resources and respect you deserve. I know you pour your hearts and souls into your farms and ranches and Farm Bureau's job is to keep clearing the hurdles and lifting the roadblocks so you can continue to do great work.
When rumors rumbled about 30x30, we jumped right in to have frank conversations with the administration. Today, we don't hear as much about 30x30, or the America the Beautiful Plan, thanks to how we advocated for principles straight from our policy book. Because we shared your concerns, the administration's proposals recognize your contributions to conservation. We'll keep watching like a hawk to ensure their ideas translate to responsible policy.
It has been an honor to share all the good work you're doing.
America's farmers and ranchers have enrolled 140 million acres in conservation programs. That's the size of New York and California combined.
We have tripled our use of renewable energy on the farm. And we are producing more with less while protecting our land, air and water.
We have gotten better at telling our sustainability story by elevating the work of members like you. And today, we're unveiling a new video to showcase the fantastic work our members are doing. Take a look.
Awesome stories. I encourage you to keep sharing your stories, too! It's your time to shine.
Another part of Growing Tomorrow, Together is strengthening our rural communities through infrastructure improvements. After many years of Farm Bureau advocating for these improvements, we finally did it.
Thanks to our united voice, Congress passed--and the President signed--a bipartisan bill that will invest in our roads, bridges, ports and waterways.
We're also excited to see long overdue attention to Western water infrastructure, which will ensure future production opportunities for farmers.
Infrastructure isn't just about roads and bridges anymore. It's also time for us to bridge the great digital divide.
Like many of you, I know this one from personal experience. When COVID hit, I resorted to Zoom meetings in my truck while the staff moved heaven and earth to get a stable signal at my farmhouse.
We are finally on our way to leveling the playing field for farmers, ranchers, rural hospitals, rural schools, and all rural Americans with a historic investment in broadband.
A tremendous example of what it means to Stand Together as we Grow Tomorrow is how we come together to protect the future of our farms and ranches.
At Farm Bureau our strength is our grassroots, and you shared your stories by the thousands to protect tax provisions that keep us economically sustainable.
We retold your stories, conducted impact analysis, and turned our tax experts into teachers to help reporters understand exactly what was at stake.
And, it worked.
Lawmakers heard us loud and clear, and we succeeded in protecting stepped-up basis for the survival of our family farms.
We need that same energy and passion when it comes to WOTUS. It is critical that this administration understands that we should not need a team of lawyers and consultants just to farm our land.
Our team can help you make your voice heard on WOTUS. Visit our AFBF booth at the trade show and get engaged today.
Don't ever say that your one voice can't make a difference. Let me tell you, when you're part of the Farm Bureau family, you better believe it can.
Now don't misunderstand, my momma would bang me on the back of my head if she thought I was bragging. That's the beauty of it. It isn't about a single person, and it surely isn't just about me. It's about all of us Growing Tomorrow, Together.
From our grassroots advocacy to our leadership development programs to our work together to strengthen our communities through resources like Farm State of Mind, you have every reason to be proud of what we are achieving together.
Someone asked me the other day what I thought the future of Farm Bureau looked like. I didn't hesitate for a moment in saying, "the future of Farm Bureau is bright." And that's because we invest in people with a common, noble purpose and believe in the possibilities of tomorrow.
That's the Farm Bureau way and yes, the future is very bright.
The wider we open our doors to invite new people into this Farm Bureau family, the brighter that future is going to be.
We need to represent all of agriculture: drawing in farmers from all backgrounds, crops, races, and regions.
Let's actively recruit and include new voices and perspectives.
Do not underestimate the power of your voice.
America trusts us, and for good reason.
Through even the greatest challenges, we never waver in growing the safest, most sustainable food, fuel and fiber in the world. And Farm Bureau remains true to our purpose – to be that one, United Voice of Agriculture.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe with all my heart that there is reason to be optimistic.
When we see despair, let's sow hope.
The challenges we are facing today are getting so complex that it can be hard to wrap our arms around them, but let's commit to staying connected and working together to solve them. It will take all of us to do it.
If you aren't very involved, use this convention as a launch pad to become a stronger advocate for agriculture.
We're expected to be strong advocates as people of faith, too.
You know I lean on my Bible, and in Jeremiah 29:11 it says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
As believers, we must have hope in our hearts, just as we do as farmers and ranchers.
It's still our time… Let's keep Growing Tomorrow, Together.