The American Farm Bureau Annual Convention always takes place in early to mid-January, making it feel like an extension of the holidays for Farm Bureau members. Much like a child opening presents on Christmas morning, Farm Bureau members look forward to finding out what’s in store at the annual convention, this year in Austin, Texas, Jan. 17-22.
In keeping with this year’s convention theme, “2020 Vision: Sustaining America’s Agriculture,” several of the 40-plus workshops will focus on impressive advances in agriculture and how farmers and ranchers can thrive in a changing world.
Farmers and ranchers depend on the land for their livelihood, and their priorities include enhancing soil health and protecting water with cost-effective tools and practices to reduce runoff and soil erosion. Workshops will cover how farmers and ranchers can get a return on investment for conservation practices and share agriculture’s past success and future opportunities to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustaining Farmers’ and Ranchers’ Mental Health
We also need to ensure that farmers and ranchers have the resources they need to thrive. After a challenging year, many in agriculture have experienced high levels of stress. Farm Bureau is committed to ensuring our members can talk openly and honestly about mental health and getting help when needed for themselves or others.
Using New Technologies
Another key part of sustainability on the farm is implementation of new technologies. The sixth annual Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge will feature business innovations in food and agriculture. There will also be several workshops on implementing ag tech on farms and ranches and how these technologies can increase yields and benefit soil health. Additional workshop topics include blockchain, cell-based protein alternatives and gene editing—all hot topics with huge implications for farmers and consumers.
Lower commodity prices from market disruptions, natural disasters, increased labor costs, protein alternatives—our workshops will cover how these and other factors are affecting the bottom line for farmers and ranchers and rural communities, while sharing some tools and strategies to help us thrive.
Sometimes we call our annual convention a Farm Bureau family reunion, because that is what it feels like when we see each other again. Just like any family reunion, it’s a chance to find out what’s new and share our successes and challenges. This community—this family—is a big part of what Farm Bureau is all about. Getting together with people who understand what you’re dealing with because they do the same work you do is extremely therapeutic, on top of being an effective way to get ideas about how to improve your farm or ranch.
Another exciting part of our annual convention is the speeches by VIP guests. We are excited to have Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue speak with us on Monday, the 19th. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler joins us on Sunday, the 18th. This is the first time, we believe, that an EPA Administrator has spoken at an American Farm Bureau convention, and it speaks to the good working relationship we have with Administrator Wheeler and his staff. We’ll also be honored to welcome Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
And we’ve just confirmed that President Donald Trump will join us for the third year in a row, speaking to Farm Bureau members and all the nation’s farmers and ranchers on Sunday afternoon. It’s a great honor to have the President and two key members of his Cabinet join us.
Last (only because it comes at the end of convention), but not least, is the Annual Meeting of grassroots delegates from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The delegates will vote on policy resolutions surfaced last year in county Farm Bureau discussions—ideas that made their way to the state level and advanced to the national level. This grassroots policy development process is a source of pride and strength for Farm Bureau. It means that when our grassroots member advocates go to Capitol Hill or talk with federal agency staff about issues, they bring with them the voices and influence of millions of Farm Bureau members from across the country. That’s been Farm Bureau’s powerful and effective recipe for policy success for more than a century.
Can you tell I’m excited about annual convention? Just like a kid before Christmas, I can hardly wait for what’s in store for our whole Farm Bureau family.
As many of you know, I won’t be able to attend this year’s convention in person, as my wife Bonnie continues her courageous fight with cancer. This is a first for Bonnie and me. We’ve always looked forward to annual convention, and it’s going to feel strange not to be there. But Farm Bureau members’ priorities are faith, family, and farming and Farm Bureau, in that order. I know that I’m where I need to be this year. I know that our great leaders from across the country are going to carry the ball and score a touchdown. And since Bonnie and I will be participating by video, I can still say, “See you in Austin!”
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.