Here at Farm Bureau, we’re family. We come from all regions and produce all commodities, but our differences fall away when we need each other. We are united in friendship, purpose and our love of agriculture.
We don’t use the term Farm Bureau “family” lightly: Those words carry meaning and are backed up with action. Like any family, we may not always agree, but we stand up for each other and our way of life. We celebrate times of blessing, and we help carry the burden through the tough times.
Bonnie and I are personally so grateful for the love and support of our Farm Bureau family, and we are blessed and honored to hear your stories, too. I often talk about the importance of stepping outside our fencerows to advocate for agriculture. But going beyond our fencerows is also about sharing our stories across our agricultural community and learning about what’s impacting our neighbors the next county over as well as across the country.
Just last week, leaders from the 50 state Farm Bureaus and Puerto Rico gathered in Washington, D.C., for our annual Council of Presidents meeting. During our meeting, we heard from Farm Bureau presidents who have led their states through natural disasters in recent months and years. Between flooding, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and “bomb cyclones,” it seems no region has been left untouched. One theme that rang through in each state’s story was how farmers and ranchers across the country banded together to help, and that they looked to Farm Bureau as a leader in getting relief to those in need. From North Carolina to California, across Nebraska and Texas, and down to Puerto Rico, the Farm Bureau family showed up to help their brothers and sisters begin the long, hard work of rebuilding.
Most recently, our Farm Bureau family rallied around farmers and ranchers in the Midwest as they faced overwhelming floods that wiped out fields and devastated homes and communities across the region. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund has collected more than $3 million in donations that are going straight to helping farmers, ranchers and rural communities. State and county Farm Bureaus and individual members have been on the front lines of helping their neighbors. That’s what we do in farm country: we see a need and we do all in our power to help, whether that’s pitching in to harvest a crop before a storm, repairing damaged barns or bringing a covered dish to the table.
When our neighbors are thousands of miles away, however, our instincts to hop in the truck and head right over to lend a hand can be channeled through local Farm Bureaus on the ground and set up to help. I can’t imagine the horror of a wildfire on my land and home, but our Farm Bureau family in California has known this sad devastation firsthand. Their state’s California Bountiful Foundation was ready to help deliver aid following the Paradise wildfires last fall. They already had seen how eager members—both across their state and across the country—were to help when wildfires whipped through wine country just the year before. Folks were quick to lend support and looked to Farm Bureau as a trusted organization to get donations right to farmers and ranchers in need.
This kind of care and generosity is characteristic of our Farm Bureau family. In fact, Puerto Farm Bureau has credited their recent membership growth directly to Farm Bureau support following Hurricane Maria. From Texas Farm Bureau managing donations to all of us banding together to give Puerto Rican farmers a voice here in Washington, the Farm Bureau family showed up to help in any and every way we could. Puerto Rico Farm Bureau Executive Director José Lopez told us at our Council of Presidents meeting how much these acts of service and sacrifice meant to our Puerto Rican Farm Bureau family. And it didn’t go unnoticed outside the organization either: A record number of new farmer members joined saying, “That’s the kind of organization I want to be a part of.” I hope each of you hear these stories and feel a little pride that you can join in saying, “Yes, that’s my Farm Bureau.”
Farmers and ranchers know too well that Mother Nature doesn’t always take it easy on us. Often, it seems we’ve barely had a chance to clean up before the next storm hits. I’m sure that’s how many of you are feeling with another hurricane season brewing, and fields still waterlogged or flooded from the wet spring and early summer. But we don’t lose heart. We keep faith for a better season to come, and we take comfort in knowing our neighbors will be there alongside us in times of plenty and want.
I am thankful for our Farm Bureau family every day, and I have faith that our bond will continue to be stronger than the storms we face together.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.