We are one Farm Bureau–AFBF President Zippy Duvall speaks at Centennial Banquet
“You, the county members, are the most important people in our organization,” American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall told Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) members during the organization’s 100th Annual Meeting Centennial Banquet held Nov. 14.
“We are one voice, with one mission and we are going to continue to provide that for agriculture,” Duvall stated. “Agriculture is going to be fine because we are diligent, we are hardworking and we are dedicated and we are going to do it with the power and strength in our county Farm Bureaus and this great Farm Bureau family we have.”
Duvall congratulated the organization on celebrating 100 years. “That is an awesome accomplishment,” he said. “Your theme of ‘Honoring Our Past, Growing Our Future’ is what we do in Farm Bureau.”
AFBF celebrated its 100th birthday on Nov. 12, 2019. “Just to think about the men and women that had the foresight to start County Farm Bureaus around 1911 trying to affect policies at their local level,” Duvall said. “Then they said we should do it at the state level and in 1916 Missouri started a state Farm Bureau and then in 1919 the county and state Farm Bureaus said we need one united voice and AFBF was established.”
A Georgia farmer, Duvall described Farm Bureau like a three-legged milk stool. “One leg is the county and that is the most important, powerful leg under that stool,” he said. “The state organization is another leg and the national organization makes up the third leg.”
“If one of those legs comes out from under us you know what happens…we tumble over and we are not effective anymore,” he continued.
Duvall began his leadership through the Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers program and the AFBF YF&R program where he served as the National YF&R Chair.
Duvall explained his leadership motivation was sparked after complaining one morning at the breakfast table when he was a young farmer. “I was complaining about milk prices and regulation and all the issues we were facing back then,” he reminisced. “My Dad calmly told me if I was going to do anything about the complaints I would need to get outside my fencerows and give back to my community. That started my journey right there.”
“I want every young person to know that if they dream it, and they want to work hard enough at it and they want to stay focused they can accomplish anything that they dream,” Duvall continued. “This old country boy never dreamed he’d get the chance to do what he is doing.”
Vision for next 100 years
According to Duvall, when he first came to Washington, D.C. he had so many things he wanted to accomplish. In his first two years as AFBF president, he fulfilled his commitment to travel to all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
“It was an awesome trail across this country,” Duvall stated. “We have a beautiful country made up of farmers and ranchers that are the salt of the earth.”
“As I traveled, I wanted to learn and listen,” he continued. “I realized I want to build the next century of AFBF to what you want it to be, not what I want it to be.”
According to Duvall, the messages he heard across the nation helped him narrow down some goals. “Our forefathers did an excellent job of creating our organization,” he said. “We may refine our organization, but we will not change.”
Duvall shared that vision for the next century of Farm Bureau and it includes: Unity, Transparency, Engagement, and Relationships.
“Unity is something you have to work at every day because we will have things that get in-between us and we have to work together,” Duvall explained. “Having separate regions is how you manage our organization, but you have to erase those regional lines when working on issues and have one voice.”
According to Duvall, it is important to be transparent so everyone can see AFBF’s work. “If you know what we are doing, that makes you feel the value of what you have in that leg of the organization,” he said.
Member engagement is critical to success. “The policy staff lay the groundwork with your policy book each and every day whether it be at the capitol, agencies, with the administration, or coalitions,” Duvall explained. “But when you take time to make a phone call, send an email or travel to D.C. and you tell them the same things we have been saying while laying groundwork it paves that road right to success.”
“That is why I say you are the most important piece of the three-legged stool and we have to keep you engaged,” he continued. “You are busy; I know when I go back to my farm, I am busy. When you speak that is when we see things happen and we appreciate your work.”
When speaking about engagement President Duvall highlighted Wyoming members who are engaged at the national level.
President Duvall recognized Cole Coxbill and Keith Hamilton for their service on the AFBF Issues Advisory Committees.
Coxbill serves on the Environmental Regulations Committee and Hamilton serves on the Federal Lands Committee.
“Cole also did a fantastic job chairing our National Young Farmer & Rancher Committee several years ago,” Duvall stated.
President Duvall thanked WyFB President Todd Fornstrom for his leadership on the AFBF Board of Directors. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate him. He has made such an impression on me in his short time on our board,” Duvall said. “He’s done a great job. He has a wonderful family and comes with the right attitude and asks good questions.”
Following engagement, the final component is relationships. “Our staff at AFBF has great relationships in town, but with the presidency I wanted to bring an extra layer of relationship building,” Duvall said. “My Dad taught me everything in your life that is a success was done on a relationship. He branded that in my brain, so I’ve spent my life building relationships.”
Duvall shared a story of a conversation with President Donald Trump. “President Trump called and congratulated me on being elected President of the American Farm Bureau and recognized AFBF as a great organization that gives the farmers one voice,” Duvall said. “It is a great relationship to have a seat at the table when the administration is talking about agriculture issues.”
“We are taking these four points and pushing forward to the second 100 years to keep making this organization stronger,” he said.
Duvall talked about the work accomplished recently through Tax Reform, the Farm Bill, and Regulatory Reform. “In September I watched Administrator Wheeler withdraw the 2015 WOTUS (Waters of the United States) rule,” he explained.
“We did this together with a Ditch the Rule campaign that was so strong the previous administration started a Ditch the Myth campaign, but we’ve won that battle.”
“Your involvement was critical. It was the largest federal land grab in the history of our country and we beat it back and now we have a seat at the table with EPA to have clear rules for clean water,” Duvall said.
Other issues of concern he spoke of included trade, farm labor and endangered species. “AFBF is doing so many things,” Duvall stated. “I hope you go home feeling the value you have in this great third leg of this organization.”
Times in agriculture
“My dad might have taught me to get outside my fencerows, but I want to take a minute to look inside my fencerows,” Duvall said. “Everyone knows these are difficult times in agriculture.”
“We’ve got brothers and sisters in agriculture that are on the edge; they are facing tough times and we have to watch out for them and try to help them where we can,” Duvall continued. “American agriculture will come through this difficult time.”
“I know that we will have a strong Farm Bureau family for many, many years and this is why I think that will happen,” he said. “As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve recognized three unbelievable characteristics of the farmers and ranchers of this country. Those three characteristics are diligence, dedication and hard working.”
“Proverbs 12:4 says the hand of the diligent will rule. We are going to rule and the reason we are going to rule is everybody in this country and this world is depending on us because what we do touches every living human being in this world,” Duvall shared. “Every morning I pray that the AFBF staff and I can do something that day that could affect your life in a positive way or your rural community in a positive way; that is what Farm Bureau is all about.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to serve you,” Duvall concluded. “My wife Bonnie and I love the Farm Bureau family. God Bless You and God Bless the American Farmer.”
Article by Kerin Clark, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation