Like many of you, my heart has been heavy with the news of war with Russia’s attack on Ukraine. I am praying daily for the people of Ukraine, wisdom for President Biden and our allies, and for a swift resolution. These events have been a sobering reminder of how fragile peace can be, and how we all play a role in protecting our families and communities from security risks at home and abroad.
As farmers and ranchers, our mission remains clear: to provide a safe, sustainable supply of food, fiber and renewable fuel. Our nation’s food security is a matter of national security—in times of war and peace. One of America’s greatest strengths is our ability to feed ourselves. We have seen that play out over modern history, especially in the last century. Don’t ever underestimate the importance of your role as a farmer or rancher. We may be a small percentage of the population here in the U.S., but America’s 2 million farm families are rising each day to ensure pantries across the country are filled. Remaining true to our mission on the farm frees the 98% of Americans off the farm to pursue other careers and roles that also keep our economy strong and moving forward.
Times of crisis—whether at home or abroad—remind us of the importance of doing the right thing. As Secretary Vilsack reminded companies last week, this is not a time to be opportunistic. War always brings costs—in addition to the unimaginable human loss and suffering. Our focus as a nation and with our allies must be on seeing an end to this conflict and helping those devastated by the impact of war at their doorstep. There may be temporary costs and market disruptions for those of us an ocean away, but I pray that as a nation our first aim will be the safety and well-being of our neighbors near and far.
These unsettling recent events also remind us of the importance of remaining vigilant. U.S. agriculture has seen firsthand how cyber-attacks can disrupt our food supply, like when a major meat processor was held ransom last summer by cyber terrorists. At the American Farm Bureau, we engaged with the FBI to learn how farm and ranch businesses can bolster their cyber-security to prevent against future attacks. We shared security bulletins with leaders and members of our organization to offer practical steps and guidance from the FBI. After seeing what Russia has unleashed on its neighbors, this is most certainly a time to be wise and set every precaution to keep our farm businesses and food supply safe.
Now, I don’t want to sound like a doomsayer—as you all know, I have an optimistic view of the future. While there is a great deal of uncertainty as to what the coming days and weeks might bring on the world’s stage, I have no doubt of what will remain true in fields across this great land. Farmers and ranchers will stay faithful to our work and everyday will find us still farming to provide the food our families, fellow Americans and neighbors around the world are counting on.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.