ORLANDO, Fla. (January 13, 2016) – Voting delegates from Kentucky and other Farm Bureaus around the country are weighing in on the nation’s top agricultural issues and identifying priority topics for 2016 as the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 97th annual convention comes to a close in Orlando, Florida.
Kentucky Farm Bureau’s (KFB) 24 voting delegates represented Bluegrass State farmers as the AFBF 2016 national ag policies were adopted today. Kentucky’s national priority issues, developed at its own annual meeting last month, included federal crop insurance programs being maintained at current levels; opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exceeding legislative authority in the implementation of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act programs; support of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) providing technical assistance for the development of additional water resources for irrigation and livestock use; and support reform of the H-2A program to streamline the process making it more reliable, economical and simple for farmers to participate.
“Setting policy is the number one priority at the AFBF annual convention each year,” said KFB President Mark Haney, of Pulaski County, who heads the delegation from Kentucky. “Through policy development sessions, we have the opportunity to shape and influence how agriculture will be viewed in Washington, D.C., in 2016. It is crucial for Kentucky’s farming interests to be well-represented in those discussions, and extremely satisfying to return home knowing we have accomplished that goal.”
KFB’s volunteer leaders will also take their list of national priority issues to Washington, D.C., later next month for one-on-one meetings with each of Kentucky’s congressmen and both senators.
AFBF President Bob Stallman, speaking at his final annual convention as head of the organization, urged members to share their stories with the world, on social media and elsewhere.
“You know, we farmers used to complain that no one paid any attention to what we did—that people thought their food just came from the grocery store—and that we in agriculture didn’t have enough ways to get our message heard,” he said. “Well, people are sure paying attention to farming and food production now! And in this age of social media, we no longer have to depend on others to tell our story for us. We have unlimited opportunities to engage—one-on-one or with thousands of followers—and have real conversations about agriculture.”
With Stallman’s departure, delegates selected a new president and vice president to lead AFBF. Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia was elected to a two-year term. He previously served as president of the Georgia Farm Bureau for nine years. Scott VanderWal, a third-generation family farmer from Volga, South Dakota will serve as vice president. He has served as president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau since 2004.
“Mr. Duvall and I have been friends for many years and I feel confident he will make an outstanding leader for AFBF in guiding our organization’s support of national agricultural issues,” said Haney. “He will also be in tune to what the issues are at home, something that is very important to Kentucky agriculture.”
In addition to the state’s voting delegates who participated in leadership elections and helped establish AFBF’s 2016 national priority issues, nearly 400 KFB members traveled to Orlando to participate in a variety of industry-based seminars and support Kentucky’s representatives competing for national recognition in a variety of contests. Altogether, more than 6,000 Farm Bureau members from across the country attended the AFBF annual convention.
Highlights from the Kentucky delegation include:
Scott and Shea Lowe were Kentucky’s representatives in the Young Farmer & Rancher Achievement Award competition. This award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who have excelled in their farming or ranching operations and exhibited superior leadership abilities. Participants were evaluated on a combination of their farm’s overall growth and financial progress, and their demonstration of leadership skills within and outside of Farm Bureau. The Lowe’s were top 10 finishers.
Cameron Edwards of Webster County represented Kentucky in the Young Farmer & Rancher Excellence in Agriculture contest. This award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who do not derive the majority of their income from an agricultural operation, but who actively contribute and grow through their involvement in agriculture and enhance their leadership abilities through participation in Farm Bureau and other similar organizations.
Randy Adams of Anderson County represented the state in the Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet. This competition simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Participants were evaluated on their ability to effectively and persuasively exchange ideas and information.
KFB was honored with an array of honors during the convention including six Awards of Excellence for demonstrating outstanding achievements in meeting its members’ needs in each of the following categories: Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications.
KFB was also honored with the 2016 American Farm Bureau New Horizon Award for its efforts in getting a federal statewide depredation permit allowing farmers to take black vultures that were attacking on-farm livestock.
Additionally, the organization received a President’s Award for Policy Development and Implementation, presented to states for each membership-sized group that achieved quota and demonstrated superiority in the Awards for Excellence categories.
Kentucky Farm Bureau is a voluntary organization of farm families and their allies dedicated to serving as the voice of agriculture by identifying problems, developing solutions and taking actions which will improve net farm income, achieve better economic opportunities and enhance the quality of life for all. For nearly a century, KFB has served as the “Voice of Kentucky Agriculture,” representing the interests of agricultural producers and rural communities.
The American Farm Bureau Federation is the nation’s largest general farm organization, working through its grassroots system to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans and build strong, prosperous agricultural communities. During its 97th annual convention, AFBF’s 353 voting delegates – representing the interests of every state and agricultural commodity in the country – established priority issues for 2016 that will guide the organization’s efforts to improve productivity and profitability for farmers and ranchers nationwide.