Sustainability and agriculture

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, welcomed farmers to the organization’s virtual convention for 2021, which began Jan. 10.

Despite the upcoming shift in political power at the national level, the American Farm Bureau Federation expects to remain plugged into top-level policy discussions about COVID-19 relief and other issues facing agriculture.

The organization’s president, Zippy Duvall, recounted AFBF’s accomplishments under the Trump administration during the Jan. 10 online commencement of the group’s annual convention — including the disbursal of billions of dollars in farm aid, reduced taxes, updated trade deals and regulatory reforms.

“We have made the most of our time,” Duval said.

Even so, the organization is well prepared for the new make-up of Congress and the change in presidential administrations, he said.

“Folks, let me assure you, it’s still our time,” Duvall said. “Farm Bureau has built strong relationships with every administration, every Congress, and we’re already building those relationships again to continue to be the strong national voice of agriculture.”

On Jan. 11, the Farm Bureau’s congressional advocates are scheduled to expand on the “new challenges and opportunities” facing farmers, now that both the presidency and both chambers of Congress will be controlled by Democrats.

The theme of the organization’s 2021 virtual convention — “Stronger Together” — was chosen before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., Duvall said. “Little did we know how appropriate that theme would be.”

Disruptions to the food chain from the pandemic forced farmers to dump milk and plow under vegetables, which prompted the Farm Bureau to cooperate with USDA on “farm to family” food boxes that were distributed to millions of people, he said.

The organization also worked to ensure that COVID-19 restrictions didn’t bar the entry of farm workers into the U.S. and helped secure funding for personal protective equipment and expanded housing for employees, he said.

The nationwide network of state and county Farm Bureaus donated more than 1 million pounds of food and $5 million to various relief programs, Duvall said. “Isn’t that impressive? I hope that it makes Farm Bureau proud, just like it does me.”

Duvall noted that 2020 had been a difficult year for him personally due to the loss of “the love of my life,” his wife Bonnie, as well as a bout with COVID-19 during the summer. During these tough times, he appreciated the “outpouring of support from the Farm Bureau family.”

Despite these challenges, Duvall said he’s ready to “get to a new normal” to advocate in person on behalf of AFBF on key issues, such as representing the farm industry’s voice in negotiations over potential climate legislation.

Assuring a sufficient supply of farm labor and investment in broadband and agricultural research are also top priorities, he said. “Has it been a tough year? Darn right it has. But we are going to persevere just like we always do.”

I've been working at Capital Press since 2006 and I primarily cover legislative, regulatory and legal issues.

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