AFBF officials address Delaware FB’s annual meeting
DOVER, Del. (Dec. 5, 2017) — American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall was introduced to delegates of the Delaware Farm Bureau annual meeting by Don Parrish, AFBF senior director of congressional relations, as “a passionate advocate for farmers.”
Duvall — who also addressed the Virginia Farm Bureau convention last week — got his start in the organization in the Young Farmers and Ranchers program, calling it a “a springboard into a position to help us as lobbyists deliver your message,” Parrish said. “He is clearly the kind of advocate and spokesman you can appreciate, one with dirt under his fingernails.”
Before Duvall took the podium, however, Parrish decried the political climate in Washington. “We’re pretty frustrated. (Congress) is not coming together but moving farther apart.”
The Senate has approved few of President Trump’s appointments for positions under the secretaries, he continued. “Even in the ag arena, which usually operates bipartisan, we can’t get people approved.
“We will watch and see how the Administration finishes the Farm Bill, but without appointees, it will be difficult.”
Parrish listed issues that Farm Bureau is focused on, including taxes, trade agreements, labor, electronic logging devices for truck drivers, endangered species and nutrients.
A lot of issues involving nutrients are interrelated and also antagonistic to each other, Parrish said. “There are conservation issues addressing nitrogen that accentuate phosphorus issues.”
Farmers are at a level of efficiency never seen before when it comes to handling nutrients, yet agriculture is still being fingered as the cause of nutrient problems, Parrish said.
“You (in the Chesapeake Bay area) are first and foremost on nutrients. I’m trying to work with outside groups, such as drinking water, wastewater, and local county commissioners who have authority on septic systems.”
He encouraged Delaware Farm Bureau to work with similar groups at the local and state level. “We will have a hard time changing the culture in Washington without changing the culture at home.”
Parrish further encouraged Delaware farmers, when visiting Washington, to “call Secretary Perdue’s people. They need to hear about the costs you face in dealing with these problems… The more we can make compliance as streamlined and cost-effective as possible, we want to do that.”
A lively question and answer period followed Parrish’s speech, with farmers and Parrish himself airing concern about the way things are being done — or not being done — in Washington.
In her president’s message, Delaware Farm Bureau President Kitty Holtz said, “I cannot say enough for the work that is being done on our behalf by the staff at AFBF. AFBF has some of the most qualified and highly trained individuals in DC working for all of you.”
Holtz outlined some of her activities on behalf of the organization in the last year, including testifying before the Senate Ag Committee on three occasions and before the House Ag Committee twice. She has served and is serving on task forces at the state level.
“I am bringing these up because we as an industry are being recognized as having an important seat at the table for these discussions. Without that recognition and ability to have input, many regulations could be created that have a negative impact on how we farm in Delaware. Quite often those individuals that are seated around the table have no knowledge of the impact that various regulations could have on agriculture – Delaware’s number one industry. I view my role on the various task forces as one that works to protect agriculture and property rights in Delaware for all our members.”
In the business portion of the meeting, delegates unanimously passed a resolution resolving that Delaware Farm Bureau supports changing the Delaware Code regarding farmland preservation license plates to include a category specifying “a trailer may apply” and allowing “any vehicle” to apply for the farmland preservation plate.
Bob Garey, chairman of the farmland preservation program, said he welcomed any effort to put money into the program.
Delegates reconvened after lunch to hear from the AFBF president,.
“When I was elected, I’d been in agriculture all my life. I thought I knew ag, but realized I just knew my own little world,” Duvall said. He has now visited all 50 states and Puerto Rico and has been amazed to see how different agriculture is from one region to another.
All across the country, however, the biggest issue for farmers has been ag labor. And, “it is the hardest issue to bring attention to, because the subject always veers off to immigration or border control,” he said.
The second biggest issue, Duvall said, is regulatory reform and regulations. Farmers are complaining, “If you don’t take the regulations off me, I don’t know how I can do this.” Duvall understands the enormity of all the regulations hanging over the heads of farmers. “Every time you move in the field, you feel you have to look — are you breaking a regulation? There are a lot of people watching, especially regulations around water control.”
The third major issue is trade. “Poultry companies carry more of a burden than we do. If you take away exports, that’s a big deal.”
Discussions about trade “went south” during the election, Duvall noted, lost in the rhetoric of politicians trying to get voters’ support.
“If we don’t do bilateral trade, we’ll get behind more and more, and other countries will jump in (and supply the needs).”
AFBF has done “a ton of work” on the next Farm Bill, Duvall said. “Crop insurance is the cornerstone of the Farm Bill. We’ve been given a rich management tool. Let’s make sure Congress keeps support of it.
“You can’t get an operating loan in most of the country without proof of crop insurance, and without the subsidy, the insurance is not affordable.”
Duvall was adamant that “the Farm Bill is not a safety net for farmers. It’s a food security act… It keeps America strong…. The first thing that happens when people can’t feed themselves is that people get mad against countries that can…
“It is our moral responsibility to keep our country fed — and to think of hungry children all over the world.”
Duvall said he has been talking about unity as he travels.
“The folks on Capitol Hill said, ‘Bring us one voice. One solution. We don’t want to pick winners and losers among ag.’ We need to be the vehicle bringing that one voice to Washington. We’ve built a lot of coalitions, relationships, and we use them to try to move our policy forward.”
In his second year as AFBF president, Duvall will be talking about engagement. “You’ve got to stay engaged,” he said. “When we send a call to action, we need every farmer to stop for a second and send an email to his Congressman or Senator —to be a part of one voice.”
Duvall closed by quoting Romans 5:3-4, “but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
He added, “If there’s one thing that farmers have, it is eternal hope that next season will be better.
“United, engaged, persevering with a belief that things will be better… Ag is strong, tough. We always find a way through. If we can do these three things, we will lay the groundwork for a bright future for agriculture and for America.”
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