The American Farm Bureau Federation will be presenting its highest honors, the Distinguished Service Award and the Farm Bureau Founders Award, to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Barry Bushue, respectively, during AFBF’s 101st Annual Convention.
AFBF established the Distinguished Service Award in 1928 to honor individuals who have devoted their careers to serving the national interest of American agriculture. The Farm Bureau Founders Award was established in January 2017 to recognize exemplary leadership, service or contributions to Farm Bureau by officers or employees of AFBF and state Farm Bureau organizations.
Sen. Pat Roberts has served Kansas in the U.S. Congress since 1981, first in the House of Representatives then in the U.S. Senate. He is the only member in history to serve as chairman of both the Senate and House Agriculture committees, leading bipartisan coalitions to pass eight farm bills. Sen. Roberts has a long record of bipartisanship on ag issues, highlighted by his public commitment to work side-by-side with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, to pass the 2018 farm bill.
Sen. Roberts says, “The ag committee is like a family. That’s the way it was in the House and it is now, even through very, very tough times. She [Sen. Stabenow] is a Democrat, I’m a Republican. We don’t vote alike on the floor a lot, but we knew we had to get this bill done. Certainty and predictability – that was the key.”
As a former U.S. Marine, Sen. Roberts chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee for four years, a role which took him to a Soviet-era secret city in 1999. There he reports seeing stockpiles of pathogens, including hoof and mouth disease, an infectious and sometimes fatal disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, being weaponized. The experience motivated him to help secure funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which is slated to open in two years.
Sen. Roberts is a mentor to many and strong supporter of agriculture in Kansas and across the country. Richard Felts, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau, says, “Sen. Roberts’ retirement is going to create a big void for us in agriculture. He’s been there for quite some time, I won’t say an institution, but has a tremendous amount of experience and tenure. And not only that, he has a lot of respect among his peers that really looked up to him, and we’re going to miss that leadership that he has been able to provide.”
Barry Bushue served as the vice-president of AFBF from 2008-2016 and is known as a tireless worker, mentor and fundraiser. He served as the Oregon Farm Bureau President and on the AFBF Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Trade Advisory Committee and the Vision for Action Task Force. He is a firm believer that farmers and ranchers should get involved in education and the policy making process.
Bushue says, “Activism needs to be a part of your business plan. You budget for fertilizer, you budget for your seed, you budget for maintenance, you budget for all these things you do, new tractors, whatever it is you need. But, if you don’t have a line item that somehow represents an activist piece of what it is you do and show your passion for agriculture, then I think you are missing something on your farm.”
Bushue and his wife, Helen, invite members of the public to their family farm outside Portland, Oregon, to pick various fruits, vegetables, and a fall favorite, pumpkins. Bushue says opening his farm to the public comes with its challenges but he has developed a customer base that recognizes the value of agriculture.
Sharon Waterman, also a former president of the Oregon Farm Bureau, talks about Bushue’s affection for Farm Bureau, “Barry talks about the Farm Bureau family and what we can do as a Farm Bureau family because if we stand together for agriculture, we can move forward.”
Bushue says his father told him if he was going to farm smart, he needed to be part of Farm Bureau, adding, “He said, ‘We’re going to go to the [Farm Bureau] meeting tonight, and you’re going with me. I embraced it and I loved it. I’ve always had a passion for it, I think I inherited that, it’s probably genetics in our family.”
Sen. Pat Roberts was nominated by the Kansas Farm Bureau. Barry Bushue was nominated by the Oregon Farm Bureau. A national Farm Bureau committee selected each of the winners.