Farm Bureau Elects Grassroots Leaders

Delegates at the 96th American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention elected six state Farm Bureau presidents to the AFBF board of directors: Richard Guebert Jr. of Illinois and Jim Holte of Wisconsin (Midwest Region), Russell Boening of Texas and Mike McCormick of Mississippi (Southern Region), Chuck Fry of Maryland (Northeast Region), and Mike LaPlant of Washington state (Western Region).

Eleven other state Farm Bureau presidents were re-elected to represent their regions on the AFBF board of directors: Midwest Region – Craig Hill of Iowa, Kevin Paap of Minnesota and Don Villwock of Indiana. Southern Region – Ronnie Anderson of Louisiana, Tom Buchanan of Oklahoma, Zippy Duvall of Georgia, Lacy Upchurch of Tennessee and Larry Wooten of North Carolina. Northeast Region – Dean Norton of New York. Western Region – Don Shawcroft of Colorado and Paul Wenger of California.

Jon Hegeman, a greenhouse grower from Alabama, was elected the new chair of the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee, which also makes him a member of the AFBF board of directors during his one-year term.

Sherry Saylor, a row crop farmer from Arizona, was elected the new chair of the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee, which also makes her a member of the AFBF board of directors during her two-year term; Isabella Chism of Indiana was elected to a two-year term as vice chair. Lorenda Overman of North Carolina and Carol Guthrie of Idaho were elected to two-year terms on the WLC; Deb Walsh of Indiana was elected to fill a one-year term; and Marieta Hauser of Kansas and Debbi Tanner of Connecticut were re-elected to two-year terms.

Farm Bureau members will gather for the 97th AFBF Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show January 10-13, 2016, in Orlando, Florida.


Farm Bureau Delegates Set Public Policy Positions for 2015


Farmer and rancher delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention today approved resolutions that will provide the organization grassroots authority to ask Congress to finish many measures that remain unsettled at the start of 2015.

“Our delegates are the men and women growing the food and fiber for our nation and much of the rest of the world every day,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “They have made great strides over the last decades in improving their environmental performance, in adopting cutting edge technologies and taking actions to make sure they can pass their farms and ranches on to the next generation.”

According to Stallman, however, these same producers recognize that many of the challenges they face are derived from the federal government’s attempt to overreach in its regulation of land use.

“This is particularly true with respect to improper application of federal water rules,” Stallman said. “Our members also want us to continue our effort to secure a stable and reliable supply of agricultural labor.”

Regarding other policy matters, delegates:

  • Reaffirmed that farmers’ proprietary data remain strictly the property of the farmer or rancher when submitted to third parties for analysis and processing;
  • Agreed that farmers and ranchers must have the right to remove their data permanently from the systems of agricultural technology providers. Members feel especially strongly about this point given the exponential growth of agricultural data systems and the double-digit productivity gains they have generated in just a few short growing seasons;
  • Opposed state efforts to dictate out-of-state, farm-level production practices;
  • Reaffirmed support for producer-led and -approved checkoff programs;
  • Reaffirmed support for country-of-origin labeling provisions consistent with World Trade Organization rules;
  • Called for a state-led, voluntary pollinator stewardship program to address concerns over recent declines in the populations of honey bees and butterflies;
  • Supported the production, processing, commercialization and use of industrial hemp;
  • Called for an end to the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to require permits for farmers to repair erosion damage on their property;
  • Opposed the current cap on agricultural labor visas under the H2-B program; and
  • Called for common-sense reform in endangered species protection legislation.

A total of 355 voting delegates representing every crop and livestock sector in the United States deliberated on policies affecting farmers’ and ranchers’ productivity and profitability. The policies approved at the convention will guide the nation’s largest general farm organization throughout 2015.


Getting Down to Business at the AFBF Delegate Session

This morning started the business part of the AFBF Annual Convention. Maybe I am weird but this is the best part of the meeting. Sure the speakers, workshops, events and fellowship of the past three days was incredible but the business meeting is why we left our farms and ranches.

The policy, amendments and elections voted on today are grassroots at its best. Everything voted on by the delegate body did not just come about today but is the culmination of many days of hard work, debate and discussion.

This is how policy development should be and is what the American Farm Bureau is all about. After debate and discussion, policies will be voted on and will provide both members and staff with a road map for the upcoming year.

So as we vote on each business item, it is important to remember that this is the product ofthe  thoughts, ideas and hard work of our fellow members. That is why I am a proud Farm Bureau member!

gbrunkow2014 is Glenn Brunkow, a fifth-generation farmer/rancher raising cattle, sheep and crops in Kansas. He is also a columnist, blogger and ag advocate. Glenn sits on the Kansas Farm Bureau board of directors. He previously served on the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee and is a graduate of the Partners in Agricultural Leadership program. Dust on the Dashboard is his blog. Find him on Twitter: @brunkow.


What do Navy SEALS and Farmers Have in Common?


Cmdr. Rorke Denver

Navy SEAL and Farmer, it would seem that no two occupations could be any different. What exactly could the two occupations ever have in common? According to Navy SEAL Training Commander Rorke Denver, they are very similar at their core.

Both farmer and SEAL are working in very harsh conditions. As a Midwestern farmer who has been fighting frigid sub-zero conditions for the last couple of weeks I whole-heartedly agree with that assessment. The other commonality? Both farmer and Navy Seal are at the mercy of someone thousands of miles away making policies that we both must abide by and those people have never done our jobs. Commander Denver hit that one on the head when he addressed a general session.

The best point Commander Denver made was that, most wars are fought where food is scarce. The world’s violent hot-spots are places facing shortages of food. He said if we do our job and provide the food they need, he might not have to do his job and that was OK with him.

Commander Denver left us with the most valuable piece of information he was given during SEAL training. It did not include any brilliant military maneuvers or time-tested battle tactics. Rather it was the advice to keep calm in the face of adversity and those around you will also remain calm. My guess is that if that works for Navy SEAL under the strain of the incredible missions they carry out, it will work in good old Kansas when sorting cows. Thanks, Commander Roark Denver for sharing your battle tested wisdom with us.


gbrunkow2014 is Glenn Brunkow, a fifth-generation farmer/rancher raising cattle, sheep and crops in Kansas. He is also a columnist, blogger and ag advocate. Glenn sits on the Kansas Farm Bureau board of directors. He previously served on the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee and is a graduate of the Partners in Agricultural Leadership program. Dust on the Dashboard is his blog. Find him on Twitter: @brunkow.



Check out Video, Audio and Photo Coverage of #AFBF15

Extensive video, audio and photo coverage is available for AFBF’s 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show:

Live streaming:

Streaming Video:

Download Video:

Audio Podcasts:


Available audio and video, both downloads and streaming: 

President Stallman’s Annual Address

Distinguished Service Award Presentation: Don Borgman and Dr. Temple Grandin

State Farm Bureau Membership Awards

President Stallman’s Opening News Conference

Dr. Temple Grandin’s News Conference

Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge

Farm Bureau Town Hall

Parade of Flags

YF&R Discussion Meet Final Four

YF&R Awards Presentation

Secretary Vilsack’s News Conference

President Stallman’s Closing News Conference


General Sessions

News Conferences


IDEAg Trade Show (including VIP Event and CAE Awards)

Foundation Events (Golf Classic, Foundation Night Out, Flapjack Fundraiser and Book of the Year Signing)

Women’s Leadership Events (Annual Meeting of the AFB Women and Leadership Luncheon)

YF&R Events (YF&R Achievement Award, Discussion Meet Competitors and Excellence in Ag Competitors, Excellence in Ag Presentations and Discussion Meet, Final Four, Awards Presentation, Winner Photos)

Audio from workshops:

Applications of UAS Technology in Precision Agriculture

FDA regulatory and Issue Update

Livestock Market Outlook

The Farmer’s New Cash Crop: A Way to Monetize Data

Field to Market

Managing Water Availability for the Future

Grain, Growth and Gridlock

Farm Bill Decision Tools: What Farmers Need to Know

When Consumers & Science Collide: Time to Get Real

Food Safety Modernization Act: Preparing for Compliance

Crop Market Outlook

Dedicated, Disciplined and Determined

Improve Nitrogen Applications by Utilizing Technology

Crop Insurance and the Farm Bill

UAVs, Water & Nutrient Management: The Future is Today

Streamlining USDA Acreage Reporting for Producers

Hiring Practices

The Disruptive Force of Social Media on Insurance

Managing Taxes Through the Downturn




Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge Finalists Battle on Stage to Win Big

After being selected out of 200 applicants, four companies went to battle  for the chance to be named Entrepreneur of the Year and win big to grow their budding business ventures.

In a “Shark Tank” style set up, each contestant gave a short pitch to four judges and answered six minutes of questions in an attempt to convince them that their company will bring the greatest improvement to rural America. If that wasn’t pressure enough, the pitches were in front of a live audience on the trade show stage, as well as streamed online for viewers across the nation.

The four finalists are as follows (in order of presentation):

Golden Bridges: Team Leader — Suzanne Ellerbrock, Missouriphoto 1

As certified Senior Move Managers, Golden Bridges offers a variety of services to help seniors relocate or “age in place” smoothly. The group is more than just a moving company for rural America, rather they help families find peace of mind from developing a moving plan to setting up the new home to helping clients earn a profit on unwanted items. Golden Bridges has helped clients with thousands of moves.

Pasturebird, LLC: Team leader — Paul Grieve, Californiaphoto 2

With the goal to end factory farming throughout the global food market, Paul Grieve and his Pasturebird team have developed a large-scale, rotational grazing system for chickens. Pasturebird aims to reduce the cost of feeding in order to offer pasture-raised poultry for the same price as conventionally raised birds. In the first three years, the company has made $600,000 revenue and hopes to soon patent their technology.

Pulaski Grow: Team Leader Lee Spiegel, Virginiaphoto 3

Pulaski Grow offers both social and environmental benefits. With the use of an aquaponics business, Pulaski Grow will expand on an already existing youth training program to offer youth business experience with practice in marketing, customer relations, and product development. Additionally participants learn how to write a cover letter, build a resume and fill out an application, better preparing them for life after high school. Further opportunities are offered to youth who successfully complete the training program such as internships with other local business and potential jobs with Pulaski Grow. The company expects a revenue of $61,000 in the first year.

Scout Pro: Team Leader Michael Koenig, Iowaphoto 4

Scout Pro provides informational and cutting edge apps for crop scouters helping to save time while making business more profitable. With the use of Scout Pro, industry professionals will be able to access crop history online, while physically in the field assessing new crops. The varying applications assist in many ways including the identification of weeds, insects, diseases and disorders associated with corn, wheat and soy products. The company projects growing sales, up to $1 million in sales  2019.

The results will be announced during the convention’s final session on Monday, Jan. 12, following keynote speaker Jay Leno. The Entrepreneur of the Year will receive $15,000 while the People’s Choice Award winner will receive $10,000 (a contestant can win both). Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open until 12 p.m. Pacific on Jan. 12, and is accessible via the Farm Bureau Annual Convention App under “surveys.”

KennaLewis is a student at California Polytechnic Institute. She was a summer communications intern at the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2014.


Lions and Tigers and Porcupines and Books … Oh My!

If you want to wake up a room of people, feed them great pancakes, give them great books, let them raise money for a great cause and bring out an array of amazing animals with an entertaining speaker to boot. This morning’s Flapjack Fundraiser gave us all of that and more.

It wouldn't be a Flapjack Fundraiser without flapjacks!

It wouldn’t be a Flapjack Fundraiser without flapjacks!

Jack Hanna provided every attendee an education that would be hard to match, even with the wonders of Google and the magic of the Internet. And an experience for a few children that they won’t soon forget! (Touching a python?)

The 2015 Book of the Year! "The apple orchard riddle," by Margaret McNamara.

The 2015 Book of the Year! “The Apple Orchard Riddle,” by Margaret McNamara.

And let’s not forget the book! “The Apple Orchard Riddle,” by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas is the 2015 American Farm Bureau Foundation Accurate Ag Book of the Year. This book introduces children to the teacher Mr. Tiffin and his students and asks them to solve this riddle: “Show me a little red house with no windows and no door, but with a star inside.”

This story of a third-grade class on a field trip is a great way to introduce children to the wonders that can be found at an orchard. And don’t forget the supplemental materials that can be purchased to used with these books, making them great tools, as well as gifts, for any classroom.

wagfarms is Val Wagner, a North Dakota farmer and rancher. The Wag’n Tales blog features stories from this mom of four who loves farm life and invites readers to come along for the ride. Follow Val on Twitter (@wagfarms) and find her on Facebook. She is vice chair of AFBF’s national Promotion & Education Committee.