Commentary: The grassroots of Farm Bureau make things happen

Issue Date: December 12, 2018
By Zippy Duvall
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall delivers the keynote address during the 100th California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in San Diego.
Photo/Ching Lee

(Editor's note: American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall provided the keynote address at the 100th California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting. Following are excerpts.)

In Farm Bureau, we talk about challenges and what we've got to do in the future, but we don't talk about our successes a lot.

One is regulatory reform. I'm talking to a group of people that knows regulation more than any other farmers across this country. You get a lot from your state, but you also get a lot from the federal government. We continue to work on overregulation.

One is the electronic logging devices mandate that is going to go into trucks. A lot of people around this country have to haul cattle. Those electronic logging devices would have caused an increase in costs of transportation. We were able to offset that mandate for hauling cattle and some other agricultural products. We hope we found a permanent fix that is coming up through Congress.

We also have been involved with "Ditch the Rule," the waters of the U.S. campaign that started at Farm Bureau. State Farm Bureaus and county Farm Bureaus picked it up and it bled over to other ag organizations. The new waters of the U.S. rule ought to be written in a way that a farmer could take it into his truck and ride across his property and he can identify what are waters of the U.S. himself, rather than having to hire consultants or hire lawyers to figure it out for him.

Instead of fighting our government for use of our land, we need to partner with our government to protect our land and our waters. We want to make sure that we have clean water, but we want to make sure that we have clear rules that we can interpret ourselves.

I am very pleased at the influence and communication that we've had with the administration when it comes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. We all were talking about do no harm to NAFTA and how valuable it was to agriculture. I am proud to say that after negotiations we now have a U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and our organization has used your policy to push forward and make sure we have influence in that.

We can't talk about successes without talking about tax reform and this organization and the influence that we've had on estate taxes and tax reform. That is a great success. We cannot do that without county Farm Bureaus and state Farm Bureaus. Your voice was heard.

Everywhere I go, someone asks me, "What is the biggest challenge of American agriculture today?" I tell them, farm labor. I know it is a big deal here in California, but all across this country, farm labor is the biggest limiting factor that American agriculture has. It limits us from growing, it limits us from being sustainable, it limits us from bringing our children and grandchildren back to the farm. It limits the ability to bring new people to our industry.

We need immigration reform and we need a workable farm visa system. We will continue to work with California Farm Bureau and all of the Farm Bureaus to find a workable guestworker program.

This organization gives me tremendous hope for the future. I'm standing in front of the most powerful part of our organization, and that's the county leaders. The grassroots of this organization make things happen. We work hard at the American Farm Bureau and California Farm Bureau, but we just lay the foundation with your policies. With your help, it makes all of the difference in the world and it completes the job.

We're in it together through a great organization that we know as Farm Bureau. Are you ready to be an engaged member of Farm Bureau? Are you ready to give five or 10 minutes to send an email or a text or make a call to a congressman or the White House?

I hope you go home with a new sense of responsibility as a Farm Bureau member to be engaged and to respond. The only way we are going to make a difference in the future is if our grassroots continues to grow. Agriculture has a strong voice in Washington, but when you come to town or when you call, it magnifies that voice by 1,000 times.

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 4:12: "Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him and a three-fold cord is not quickly broken."

When I read that scripture, I thought about my county Farm Bureau and my state Farm Bureau, and I thought about the American Farm Bureau. That three-fold cord can withstand anything and as we speak with one voice, we can shape the future of agriculture in a way that not just our children and grandchildren can come back to the farm by being sustainable and profitable, but other people's children can come back to the farm.

The people I am standing here looking at give me hope for the future because I know that you are going to respond to the call and you are going to engage and be an active Farm Bureau member, so we can make the future of American agriculture bright and profitable for generations to come.

(Vincent "Zippy" Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Georgia, is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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