photo credit: AFBF Photo, Philip Gerlach
Just last week, the 2023 American Farm Bureau Convention wrapped up in Puerto Rico. I can think of no better way to kick off a new year than with the Farm Bureau family, and what an awesome time we had! From enjoying the festive sites in San Juan—home to the world’s longest Christmas season—to reconnecting with old friends and making new, this was a truly memorable time. If you were able to join us, I hope you were refreshed and re-energized for the year ahead. As I reflect on our time together, I wanted to share a few highlights from our celebration of Mi Familia in San Juan.
One of my favorite convention programs is our Youth Leadership Program, where we invite members from 4-H, FFA and MANRRS to join us to experience convention and explore how they can help drive agriculture forward.
Farm Bureau has a rich history of cultivating the next generation of leaders through our Young Farmer and Rancher program, and our YF&R competitions are a hallmark of every convention. But the path to Farm Bureau begins long before that first county meeting as a young farmer. For many young folks, it all begins when they put on that green, blue or gold jacket. I am excited that these future leaders joined us to take a seat at the table and explore all that Farm Bureau has to offer. This year, we also expanded our youth engagement efforts by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Agriculture Future of America. Like our MOUs with 4-H, FFA and MANRRS, we will work together to support opportunities with our organizations to help ensure a bright future for American agriculture.
Innovation is also key to that bright future, and ag entrepreneurs took center stage at our convention for the ninth year with Farm Bureau’s Ag Innovation Challenge. The final four businesses in the competition are bringing the creative solutions that will help shape the future of agriculture. NORDEF of Kansas took home the top prize with their technology to produce diesel exhaust fluid at the point of use, breaking down emissions. You can read more about their product and all of this year’s impressive finalists here. Thanks to our partnership with Farm Credit and our sponsors, the Challenge awarded $165,000 for competitors to invest in their businesses.
Whether you joined us in person or virtually, I hope you were inspired by our speakers and grassroots leaders who took the stage to share their experiences. From the Cultivation Center Stage at our trade show to featured workshops throughout convention, we had the opportunity to hear from farmer and rancher members, leaders from food companies, and policy experts in Washington. We were also honored to be joined by local leaders in Puerto Rico and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. And for the second year, we received a special video message from President Biden to our members. There’s no question that the American Farm Bureau Convention is the place to be for industry leaders and lawmakers looking to connect directly with farmers and ranchers.
If our convention was any indication, this is going to be a full and exciting year ahead
Grassroots advocacy is at the heart of Farm Bureau, and we begin each year by getting our policy direction straight from our grassroots members. Our farmer and rancher delegates, who set our policy priorities for our work in Washington, hail from across the country from farms of all sizes, and 99% of them are family farmers. This year, our delegates focused on modernizing the farm bill by increasing baseline for farm bill spending, protecting and expanding crop insurance, developing more flexible disaster relief programs and extending protection to more specialty crops. They also voted to support access to nutrition programs by connecting farms directly with food banks and other efforts to make fresh food available to those in food deserts. Our delegates also called for greater transparency in the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, took a firm stance against the new Waters of the U.S. rule, and formalized opposition to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new emissions rule if it requires reporting from farms.
Of course, we believe that the best solutions to the challenges facing agriculture don’t come from the federal government. That’s why Farm Bureau is committed to working with companies to ensure farmers and ranchers have the tools we need to continue our work of producing sustainable food, fiber and fuel. We were excited to kick off our convention with the announcement of an MOU with John Deere that ensures farmers’ and ranchers’ right to repair their own farm equipment. This agreement addressed a long-running issue for our members, and we believe it can serve as a model for other manufacturers to address farmers’ concerns and help control costs to keep our farms running.
If our convention was any indication, this is going to be a full and exciting year ahead. As I said in my speech to attendees, let’s buckle up for 2023! We’ve got a lot of work to do yet: a new generation of consumers to engage with, new members of Congress to reach out to, and a farm bill to complete this year—just to name a few. But our Farm Bureau family doesn’t shy away from a challenge. I was reminded at every turn at this year’s convention that our Familia is truly stronger and better together.
*Recorded, featured content from the 2023 American Farm Bureau Convention is available online with virtual registration through April 5, 2023.