The end of the year is quickly approaching, and as I reflect on the time, I am thankful for each person I have met and for the resiliency farmers and ranchers continue to show in the face of every challenge. Although the pandemic is not fully in the rearview yet, I have been grateful for opportunities to get back on the road safely this last year, and meet face-to-face with Farm Bureau members around the country.
This week, I wrapped up my final state visits before the 2022 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Atlanta next month. Over the past nine months, I have seen the ingenuity of farmers and ranchers across this country first hand. I have seen the passion you have for growing the food, fiber and fuel we rely on. I’ve seen your caring hearts as you step up to help those in need.
I have seen the dedication of our young farmers and ranchers who worked hard to stay connected and continue their work to raise money and food for their communities. I’ve seen the commitment of our Ag Foundation and volunteers around the country to find new ways to reach young people and tell them about agriculture, even when schools were virtual or restricting classroom visits.
I have seen the best of America. But, I have also seen the struggles farmers and ranchers continue to face and learned how we can better work together to overcome these challenges. In Idaho, I joined farmers working to stop a proposal that would remove four critical dams on the Snake River. This river system is home to the highest inland port in the country, the outlet for 10% of U.S. ag exports. While some lawmakers claim that these dams pose a threat to the salmon population, the fact is innovation and infrastructure investments have led to solutions that have been 98% successful in helping fish migrations up and down the Snake River.
In Louisiana, I saw how partnerships with land-grant universities are helping to keep rice and crawfish farmers in businesses through new varieties and growing methods. I heard how Farm Bureau’s advocacy work in 2020 to help crawfish farmers saved local farms.
In Iowa, I joined farmers and other partners to share with members of Congress how regulations like WOTUS impact farms. In Kansas, I heard the frustrations ranchers have with livestock marketing. In Illinois, farmers shared how investments in biofuels can help our environment and their farms. And in Texas and New Mexico, I saw how the border crisis is impacting farms and ranches as water lines and fences are cut, and homes are broken into.
In Alaska, I saw farmers and ranchers working hard to grow their membership and bring more people into agriculture. And in Puerto Rico, I saw how critical Farm Bill programs are and how language barriers put farmers at a disadvantage when dealing with their federal government.
While some issues vary by region, I also saw the challenges and the gains we share in common. From Arizona to Virginia, I heard about the problems with the H2-A visa program and how labor continues to be the greatest limiting factor to U.S. agriculture. And from California to Tennessee, I saw the great strides farmers have made to leave the land better than we found it, thanks to our longstanding commitment to sustainability.
Each trip I take is valuable because it gives me stories I can take back to Washington as I meet with members of Congress and the administration. The stories help us put a face and a voice to the daily advocacy work of our American Farm Bureau team. But most importantly, these trips give me hope for the future of farming and Farm Bureau. Even when facing the toughest circumstances, the farmers and ranchers I meet with aren’t shying away from a challenge. And neither are you. Together we are stepping up to overcome the challenges to build a brighter future for our families and communities. I cannot wait to get out again in 2022 to see what’s on the road ahead.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.