Diverse issues discussed at AFBF annual convention – Feb. 2020
One of the things that is always amazing when attending the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting is the shear diversity of agriculture in the United States. We also learn about the diversity of issues too and when you consider how many different commodities come together at the annual meeting it is a small wonder our system of adopting policy developed the way it did. I doubt it could occur any other way and still be successful for over 100 years.
The voting delegates to the national convention were busy going through the policies forwarded to them from the resolutions committee. They amended and discussed and then either voted up or down those resolutions which they felt need to be added to our policies. This is the purpose of the meeting, but the meeting also has workshops, tours, a trade show and other events for members and guests.
For the third year in a row, the United States President addressed the members who attended. He mentioned a Wall Street Journal article that said he had a popularity rating of 83% among agriculturalists. He seems to certainly feel comfortable addressing farmers and ranchers. He also led with his condolences to Zippy Duvall and his family because he had learned, what others had heard, that Bonnie Duvall had passed away the day before after a long battle with ovarian cancer.
Bonnie had traveled to Wyoming with her husband when Wyoming hosted the American Farm Bureau’s Environmental Issues Conference. She was a delightful lady and it was clear that she and Zippy were a team. He always made sure Farm Bureau members knew that. At his most recent visit to Laramie for our Annual Meeting he once again passed along her best wishes to our members. We extend our prayers, thoughts and condolences to the Duvall family; which we know is not adequate enough but is the best we can do.
The convention provides a wonderful opportunity to network with agricultural folks from throughout the U.S. and find out how things are going in their neck of the woods and learn about agricultural issues across the country.
We learned about beginning trends that may affect us here in Wyoming. One workshop educated us about the impact the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) can have on agriculture. In case folks haven’t heard about this, the city of Toledo adopted a Bill of Rights for Lake Erie which gives any of the residents of Toledo the right to sue, on behalf of Lake Erie, any business or government entity that can impact the right of the lake to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve. This includes features of the lake, organisms, soils and terrestrial and aquatic sub ecosystems.
The LEBOR also invalidates any permits or licenses (state or federal) within the city of Toledo that would violate these rights. Of course, citizens who bring a lawsuit can also recover the cost of their litigation without limitation and also the LEBOR gives the opportunity for damages which will be measured by the cost of restoring the Lake Erie ecosystem. LEBOR does not limit the area affected by the bill of rights to just the city of Toledo, but potentially impacts every county draining into the lake as well as other states and potentially even Canada. The Ohio Farm Bureau is working on this issue and we are going to try and pass along information about their efforts to folks out here in Wyoming.
Kay Johnson Smith and Casey Kinler with the Animal Agriculture Alliance gave some helpful pointers on how farmers and ranchers can secure their farms and ranches to help prevent infiltration by animal welfare groups seeking to disrupt your business. There is no silver bullet, but people who could be impacted should certainly learn about ways to protect their farms and ranches. There were informative programs on the broadband issue, changes in the federal judiciary and ag technology. Information that will help all of us in the future.
The AFBF is starting their second century as an organization and as always people like to think about what we will see in the next one hundred years. Whatever that is going to be, most of the attendees felt optimistic that we will change and adapt to continue to represent farmers and ranchers across the U.S. into that next century.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President