Many of you know that my wife Bonnie has been in the hospital for several weeks recovering from emergency surgery related to her cancer, and I’ve been spending a lot more time in Georgia than in Washington lately. Bonnie is doing much better. There’s still a long road ahead, but Bonnie is getting stronger every day. We’re both so grateful for the outpouring of well-wishes and prayers we have received. I know that your prayers have made a difference. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!
In thinking about whether to write about a personal topic instead of the usual ag policy issues, the answer was clearly yes because agriculture and Farm Bureau are such a big part of life for Bonnie and me. It’s times like this that remind us of what’s really important. Agriculture is foundational to the life that Bonnie and I have built together. Many Farm Bureau couples travel their agricultural leadership path as partners, as we have done for about 40 years.
It’s appropriate because we know that we’re not the only ones going through a hardship. As I look across the country, I see a lot of hurt right now, with farmers and ranchers dealing with flooding across the Midwest and parts of the South. It couldn’t come at a worse time, with the downturn in agricultural exports and farm prices.
Many others are dealing with their own personal health challenges, as well. Bonnie and I are so thankful for the amazing innovation that all of us rely on when our health is at stake. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s interesting how people tend to be suspicious of modern technology applied to food production, but when it’s a matter of innovation and technology in cancer treatment or other life-saving therapies, we say “bring it on!” I think the lesson here is to focus on the real-life problems that can be solved and the positive outcomes of tested, proven technologies. We must continue to educate consumers about the benefits to them from farmers’ and ranchers’ growing use of modern technology, from affordable food to a cleaner environment.
Bonnie and I are grateful also for the capable, caring medical professionals who are working with us: surgeons, oncologists and amazing nurses. It’s because of farmers and ranchers working hard to feed all of us that some are able to pursue different careers. To give credit where it’s due, I believe it was my friend and former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who once gave a speech at an American Farm Bureau convention about this—the role that our farmers and ranchers play in providing freedom to follow our separate passions, whether it’s nursing, being a skilled surgeon, teaching in a medical school or being a researcher working on life-saving medical innovations.
The bottom line is agriculture is the foundation of our lives. Our nation’s pastures and croplands are the engine that powers everything else. I’ve never been prouder to work for the men and women who feed, fuel and clothe the nation and much of the world. This is a tough time, economically, for many farmers and ranchers. Recent floods and heavy snowfalls are making things even harder. But I hope all our farmers and ranchers know how important they are, and I hope that knowledge inspires them to push through the hard times. I’m also glad that the risk management programs we need were renewed and strengthened in the 2018 farm bill, to help in times like this.
In Farm Bureau, we have an informal motto of “Faith, Family, Farming,” and I guess this column is about all three. Bonnie and I certainly have leaned on our faith over these past few weeks. The entire Duvall family is feeling the embrace of our Farm Bureau family. And we are grateful for the role that farming plays in our own lives and for the hard work and dedication of the nation’s farmers and ranchers.
Thank you again for your support and prayers. I hope to see you again soon!
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. You can follow him on Twitter @ZippyDuvall.