The American Farm Bureau hosted multiple days of virtual programming this week focused on the future of agriculture and the most pressing issues for farmers, ranchers and consumers for the 2021 American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention.
Attendees had the opportunity to hear from industry leaders, farmers and policy experts at both live featured workshops and on-demand sessions. Members from around the country also met virtually to set policy for the coming year.
“2020 has been a year of challenges and high expectations for our farmers — expectations that we will continue to grow the food, fiber and energy for our country and a lot of the rest of the world. We have risen to that challenge and those expectations, all along trying to protect our employees and families from this pandemic,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau. “I am so proud of Farm Bureau as we have worked with our counties and states to help our farmers get through this difficult time.”
Attendees heard from speakers including Land O’ Lakes president and CEO Beth Ford exploring the challenges and opportunities for agriculture and the food chain in 2021, Roxi Beck of the Center for Food Integrity, Navy SEAL Commander Rorke Denver, Meredith Bernard, a North Carolina farmer and YouTube influencer and Mike Rowe who is best known for his hit TV series Dirty Jobs, and most recently his show Returning the Favor featuring people making a difference in their communities.
- The American Farm Bureau Federation recognized 12 county Farm Bureaus for innovative programs and activities. These included five Ohio counties. They were:
- Farmer and Landowner Appreciation Dinner, Henry. A dinner brought members of the agricultural community together to let them know they are appreciated, they have support options and they are not alone in dealing with stress.
- Farms to Foodbanks, Pickaway and Delaware. Locally raised hogs and beef cattle purchased from members and junior fair exhibitors were processed, with the meat distributed to food banks.
- Conservation School Is Cool, Scioto. A new event that focused on sharing information with people getting involved with agriculture for the first time.
- Cows 2 Kids, Tuscarawas. A total of 7,000 gallons of milk was donated to families, homeless shelters and a food pantry.
Josh and Sarah Ison of Clermont County made the top 10 in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Excellence in Agriculture competition. Micah Mensing of Millersburg competed in the top 16 round of the Discussion Meet competition.
Farmer and rancher delegates adopted American Farm Bureau Federation policies to guide the organization’s work in 2021. Key topics ranged from farm diversity to farm labor and dairy policy to livestock marketing.
Recognizing the importance of broadening access to agriculture, delegates voted to encourage increased racial diversity in farming. This new policy calls for increased funding for USDA programs that make inheriting farms easier and increases funding to promote diverse farmland ownership.
Delegates updated labor policy, emphasizing the importance of reforming the H-2A program by expanding the program to provide visa workers for both seasonal and year-round employment. An expanded program would address workforce shortages and extend the program to operations that do not currently qualify to employ guest workers, like dairy farms.
AFBF delegates voted to provide stability in markets by supporting efforts to increase negotiated sales in fed cattle markets. Delegates also called for increased transparency in livestock pricing.
Delegates updated dairy policy to call for re-examining the 2018 farm bill’s modification to the milk price formula, improving equity in USDA’s Federal Milk Marketing Order revenue sharing pools, and reaffirmed their support for allowing dairy farmers the opportunity to cast an individual and confidential ballot during milk order referendums.
There are new policies on crop insurance. Delegates called on the Risk Management Agency to improve hurricane protection coverage, including but not limited to, providing protection against both hurricane-force winds and excessive precipitation. Delegates also supported modifying specialty crop insurance to minimize food waste.