Wilkins, Hill, Powers now lead DFB
DOVER, Del. — As of Dec. 3, Delaware Farm Bureau has a new president, Richard Wilkins, and a new executive director, Joseph Poppiti.
Wilkins, who farms in Greenwood, was unanimously elected president at the organization’s annual meeting.
A former president of the American Soybean Association, Wilkins was elected president of Kent County Farm Bureau in 2017.
He had been president of the Young Farmers and Ranchers in the mid-1980s.
He received DFB’s “Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award” in 2015. Wilkins has farmed since he was a teenager.
A University of Delaware graduate, he and his wife, Donna, purchased their first farm in 1992.
He now grows soybeans, corn, wheat, barley, hay and vegetables in addition to raising beef cattle.
Wilkins is also owner of B&W Farm Supply, a machinery and equipment dealership.
Laura Hill of Lewes was re-elected first vice president. Hill was the first woman to be elected as a Delaware Farm Bureau officer, second vice president, in 2012.
She and her husband, Roland, own and operate the 1,600-acre Deerfield Farm in Lewes along with their sons, Roland III and Jerad.
William Powers Jr. of Townsend was elected second vice president. Powers has farmed since his high school days.
He worked on the assembly line at Chrysler from 1978 to 2006, when he was elected to New Castle County Council.
All the while he has been raising and selling beef, hogs, sheep, goats, turkeys and chickens as well as growing hay and corn to feed the livestock.
He and his wife, Joan, have two grown children, Katie and Will.
Poppiti, the new executive director is a Delaware native now living in Kennett Square, Pa., where he has been following his grandfather’s passion for mushroom growing.
Most recently Poppiti has been an agricultural consultant in mushroom production, with a side business in landscaping design and implementation.
He has been a volunteer for the American Mushroom Institute since 2000 and served as chairman of the board from 2010 to 2014. Poppiti and his wife, Beth, have one grown daughter, Kathryn.
Some 80 delegates from the three county Farm Bureaus considered five resolutions. They unanimously accepted a resolution revising DFB’s deer policy to support Sunday hunting recently made legal within the state.
Two resolutions dealt with an increase in dues. Delegates chose to set dues at $65, effective in 2020.
In anticipation of the 2018 Farm Bill removing the ban on industrial hemp, Delaware Farm Bureau resolved to support American Farm Bureau Federation’s policy “supporting the production, processing, commercialization and utilization of commercial hemp.”
A final, amended resolution resolved to support bonus points for Delaware residents bidding for leases on agricultural properties controlled by public agencies within Delaware.
Don Parrish, American Farm Bureau Federation senior director of Congressional relations, discussed the Farm Bill and the Waters of the United States rule.
“If Congress is able pull the Farm Bill past the finish line this year, it will be the first time since 1990 that the Farm Bill is completed in the year it should have been,” Parrish said. To accomplish that in a lame duck session, he added, “would be a really really big deal.”
AFBF expects flexibility in the commodity title as well as progress in cooperation on food and nutrition.
“All I can tell you right now is we agree in principle. We’re afraid of what the bill might look like when it gets back from the Congressional Budget Office.
“Compared to 2013, which was the high water mark for farm income, farmers’ income is down 52 percent. That’s a huge impact — $64 billion, Parrish said. “It’s very apparent here today how tight belts are and will have to get in order to continue farming and meet cash flows. The Farm Bill is real key — as income goes down, safety nets become more important. The last thing we need is for different constituencies to start tearing this Farm Bill apart.”
There have been significant steps forward regarding WOTUS, Parrish continued. The Trump Administration has asked for comments on repealing the regulation.
“We expect new regulations will be proposed by EPA,” Parrish said, adding it is important for farmers to be able to know what is WOTUS and to be able to farm without fear.
Cody Lyon, AFBF director of advocacy and political affairs said Delaware may be a small state, but has a lot of power with Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons who have a lot of respect and responsibility and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester is in her second term and on the House Agriculture Committee.
“It is important to have that vote,” Lyon said.
It is no longer the number of contacts that matters with Congressional representatives, he said. What matters is your “skill in advocacy and having a relationship with those legislators.”
The skill in advocacy is to provide the story of how legislation will affect you, your neighbors, your community and your county. “My job is to provide information,” he said. “Yours is to provide the impact that information has.”
Finally, there is the “ask.” What do you want the legislator’s office to do for you?
“The issues can be complex and complicated. Facts are noticed, but several impact stories with the same ‘ask’ get attention,” he said.
In a question and answer period, Parrish had additional comments on WOTUS: “Courts in 28 states say the rule is likely illegal…. The administration did not dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s when making the definition. The definition is so broad, they wrote ‘navigable’ out of the contract, and that term is important.”
The 2015 rule is also so complex that “common man” cannot understand what the law says.
It may be next year before the legality of the rule is decided. Meanwhile, 22 states must implement those regulations, including Delaware and Maryland.
“If you are farming and you continue to do what you have been doing, you probably will not get a visit from the Corps. But if you make a change, you may get a knock on the door. We have been told agencies are implementing the 2015 rule in your state. By law they have to.”
It’s not only farmers who are affected but communities that want to put in a new pipeline or road that will change the nature of land, Parrish said.
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