As our nation’s new leaders are sworn in today and the 117th Congress is underway, they will need to hit the ground running to build on the work of strengthening U.S. agriculture. The American Farm Bureau stands ready to work with all our leaders on the pressing issues facing our farms, ranches and rural communities. Work on the farm never stops, and neither does Farm Bureau’s advocacy work in Washington.
As our nation continues to face the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers and ranchers, their employees and their rural neighbors can’t afford any lag time in the essential services we are counting on to keep our businesses running and our food supply secure. Federal agencies and congressional committees we work closely with will see a shift in leadership, but we can expect to see some familiar faces in those offices.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), previous chair and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, will hold the gavel again, and Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) will serve as the ranking member. Both have worked with AFBF over the years, and we’re eager to build on those relationships. On the House side, new chair—and a fellow Georgian—Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), and ranking member, Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.), are no strangers to Farm Bureau. These leaders have worked closely with their state Farm Bureaus in looking out for the needs of farmers and ranchers back home and are ready to bring that know-how to benefit all of American agriculture.
Over at USDA, Tom Vilsack has been nominated to return as Secretary of Agriculture, and we are confident he will be ready to lead from day one. After leading USDA for 8 years, Mr. Vilsack brings a deep knowledge of all the ins and outs of running a federal agency and a solid working relationship with Farm Bureau and the Washington ag community.
The American Farm Bureau has a long history of taking a seat at the table on the top issues facing our farms and ranches. If it impacts your farm, we have your back here in Washington. From addressing farm workforce shortages through immigration reform to expanding markets with free trade agreements, your American Farm Bureau team is ready to build on the progress we’ve made and continue to take agriculture forward in the 21st century.
We know your farms, ranches and our rural economy depend on a strong infrastructure. Not only that, it’s a matter of national security. We cannot get our products to market without a reliable system of roads, bridges, railways and waterways. Even with many folks remaining home this past year, these rural routes have kept humming as we continue to move products from the farm to keep our food supply secure.
In these days where so many services, events and businesses have gone virtual, infrastructure funding must also include broadband. If the digital divide wasn’t clear before the pandemic, there’s no denying it over these last 10 months. Broadband isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity to get essential services like healthcare and education and to help customers, colleagues, friends and family stay connected. Yet, 25% rural Americans are still without reliable access to broadband.
While I know we’d all love to have this pandemic in the rearview mirror, we’re not there yet, but I am praying the day comes soon. We are seeing glimmers of hope with not one, but two, vaccines available. That is nothing short of a miracle and a reminder of the great things our nation can accomplish when we work together. It will continue to take all of us working together to ensure we have the safety equipment and resources we need to continue to protect our employees and families in the days ahead. And we must prioritize getting the vaccine to those on the frontlines of our farms and across the food supply chain.
At the American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention last week, we focused on how we are Stronger Together. I hope that will continue to be the theme not only for our Farm Bureau family and across agriculture, but for our nation. It’s time for us to put partisanship aside and move forward together as Americans. Our nation’s leaders finish their oath of office with the words, “So help me God.” May we echo that prayer, and work with our leaders to press on together in the strength God provides.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.