As farmers and ranchers, we talk a good deal about the importance of having a seat at the table, and for good reason—it’s critical to making our voices heard on the issues impacting our businesses and livelihoods. But getting that seat at the table doesn’t happen by chance: it comes from putting in the time to build relationships. It would be unusual for any of us to be surrounded by a group of strangers at Sunday dinner each week. Rather, we gather friends and neighbors around our table to fellowship—even if we just met some of those friends an hour or two before. In the same way, we get a seat at the table with lawmakers when they have come to know us as a trusted resource on the challenging issues and decisions they are facing.
I am grateful and humbled by the opportunities we have had as an organization to work with this administration—and administrations past across the century-long history of our organization—on the top issues facing agriculture. U.S. agriculture could ask for no better friend than Secretary Sonny Perdue. As many of you know, I had the privilege of working with the Secretary long before either of us came to Washington, when he was governor of Georgia. I’m sure many of you can relate to the friendship and mutual respect that grows over the years of working with leaders and lawmakers. I never imagined those many years ago when my daddy urged me as a young farmer to get outside my fencerows that I’d someday be meeting with the President and the Agriculture Secretary at the White House.
I say all this as a reminder that you never know where that first step will take you in your grassroots advocacy. So, make that call to your representative or senator on issues impacting your farm. Stop by your local lawmakers’ offices at your state capitol and don’t pass up on a chance to come to Washington to meet with your representatives face to face.
When farmers and ranchers met with President Trump and Secretary Perdue last week as they announced the new trade aid package for agriculture, it was the result of countless hours spent individually and collectively making our voices heard. I believe it’s been a regular practice of this Administration to invite farmers and ranchers to the table because they are so accustomed to hearing from us. Let’s keep up that good work of advocacy. There is still much to do today from opening markets to trade to securing a legal, stable workforce, and there will be new challenges to face tomorrow. Let’s be faithful to build the foundations and bridges today that will continue to secure agriculture’s future going forward.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.