The 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Farm Bureau kicked off this morning with a very full house. We began our meeting with a prayer and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Edens Edge performed the National Anthem and they did a magnificent job. The music didn’t stop there though. We were entertained by Edens Edge for one more song. I tried to take pictures but I was in the back of the room so they are not top-quality.
American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman addressed the members after Edens Edge. Edens Edge is a tough act to follow but President Stallman did great! He opened by talking about how much country music has changed over the years, just as the tastes of consumers have changed. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that consumers need farmers!
Stallman emphasized that farmers are relevant! Members advocate and communicate with our elected officials throughout the year. He stressed that AFBF works to represent the concerns and needs of its members.
Stallman told members we need to meet consumers on their turf to address their concerns and help them understand what happens on our turf. It’s vital every farmer and rancher tell their own personal story. He encouraged members to stop by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance booth and sign up to tell their stories.
Farmers and ranchers know better than anyone the important role the farm bill plays in the lives of all Americans. Stallman talked about how important it was to get a meaningful farm bill passed. He also talked about the need for a reliable work force for agriculture and how Farm Bureau would continue to fight for this in the coming year. Farm Bureau will continue to work for permanent repeal of the estate tax and we welcome the stability of allowing farmers to plan their estates so the next generation can farm.
Stallman reinforced that parents know best when it comes to our children and that’s why we worked hard to communicate with the Department of Labor that we didn’t need new laws for our kids who work on the farm. Parents all across the country sent letters and the Department of Labor listened.
Stallman asked members how many of us would stand up for farmers and ranchers everywhere, even if it meant going against a government agency. One farmer, Lois Alt, had the courage to stand up to the EPA and fight for her farm. EPA wanted Lois to get a Clean Water Act Permit but she didn’t understand why. When she asked EPA why she needed the permit, she was told to just get the permit or she faced fines of over $37,000 a day or jail time. Lois took on the EPA in a court battle to fight for all farmers and her family farm. West Virginia Farm Bureau and AFBF were there to help Lois and the court allowed Farm Bureau to sign on to her lawsuit. Days before the case went to court, EPA dropped the charges. Farm Bureau will continue to stand with farmers and ranchers.
Stallman closed by talking about the Centennial Project Development and how it would ensure Farm Bureau remained strong for another 100 years. Stallman thanked members and vowed Farm Bureau would continue to fight the good fight for its members.
Following Stallman’s annual address we watched videos of Farm Bureau members across the country helping others in their communities. Next, the AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee was introduced, followed by the American Farm Bureau Foundation of Agriculture Board of Directors. Terri Gilbert of Kentucky chairs the Women’s Leadership Committee and Stallman also serves as Foundation president. Videos were shown showcasing the work of these two groups over the past year. Both groups focus on showcasing agriculture so people have a better understanding of how farming and ranching today.
DuPont Pioneer donated $250,000 to the My American Farm project, which helps to educate children about where food comes from. This donation will help enhance the project and expand its reach (www.myamericanfarm.org).
After the generous donation by DuPont Pioneer, Edens Edge performed their first hit single “Amen.” The lead singer also thanked her uncle, a farmer in Arkansas, for helping arrange their guest appearance this morning. I loved hearing how they were connected to agriculture. And they were proud of their heritage–that’s even better!
The Top 10 Finalists for the Excellence in Agriculture Award and Achievement Award were announced for the YF&R contests. The auditorium was full of cheers and excitement. More awards were announced recognizing state Farm Bureaus for 2012 achievements.
This was a great opening session and I’m excited to attend the sessions this afternoon. The afternoon session line-up offers variety and still covers areas important to all of agriculture. Nashville hospitality has embraced this meeting and even though the convention center is big, there is always a smiling face to help you find your way!
Chris Chinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri. She serves on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in Nashville. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).
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