Wilkins’ service continues as ASA chairmanship ends
GREENWOOD, Del. (Jan. 2, 2018) — On Dec. 7, Delaware farmer Richard Wilkins turned over the position of chairman of the board of the American Soybean Association to Ronald Moore, whose term as president had just ended. Wilkins’ term as president ended in December 2016.
So what’s next — a visit to Disney World? Actually, he said he may go to a Disney theme park, but the one in California. Commodity Classic will be held in Anaheim, Calif., at the end of February.
Wilkins still has two more years left in his term on the ASA board, where his main committee assignments are the Farm Bill & Crop Insurance Advocacy Team and the Farm Bill Task Force.
He has been the ASA representative to the National Coalition for Food & Agricultural Research since 2010 and is currently NC-FAR’s vice president as well as serving as a director on the Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation Board.
“I’m still heavily involved in working on the next Farm Bill,” Wilkins said. “And I will continue to serve in the process of searching out and selecting the next CEO of ASA, since Steve Censky is now Deputy U.S. Secretary of Ag.”
Wilkins added he expects to be going to Washington, D.C., frequently to lobby.
Wilkins joined the Mid-Atlantic Soybean Association in 2002. He served as membership chair in 2003 and 2004, then president of the four-state association from 2005 to 2010. He then served on several ASA committees and served as treasurer for two years before being elected ASA vice president, which led to the presidency.
How did a farmer from Delaware, a state that grows soybeans on about 165,000 acres, compete with farmers from states like Iowa, with 6.5 million acres of soybeans, to take the helm of ASA?
By being friendly, positive and building relationships, Wilkins said.
“Farming in central and lower Delaware is not much different from commercial agriculture in Midwestern states.”
Another thing that helped him, he said, is that Delaware is about 20 years ahead of other watersheds across the country dealing with regulation pressures on water quality and nutrient management issues. His experience makes him a resource for others just beginning to feel pressures on the freedom to operate because of those issues.
Wilkins has been growing soybeans since he was a teenager. By the time he graduated from Milford High School in 1976, he was farming 65 acres of grain, raising beef cattle and growing hay and straw for horse farms. He double majored in agriculture business management and agriculture education at the University of Delaware.
He and his wife, Donna, purchased their first farm, 150 acres, in 1992. By 2000, it had grown to 300 acres of cropland, 1,000 acres of rented cropland and a direct market beef enterprise. He grows about 400 acres of soybeans, 400 acres of corn, 250 acres of wheat, 150 acres of barley, 300 acres of vegetables and 400 acres of hay.
In 1998 Wilkins became a Vermeer retail hay equipment dealer, which blossomed into a full-service machinery and equipment dealership, B & W Farm Supply.
Serving as an officer of ASA kept him away from home quite a bit.
“I have been to China three times, twice speaking at the Global Food Security Summits,” he said. “I’ve delivered messages on USA’s sustainable farming practices during many trade missions to EU member nations, Japan, Indonesia and, more recently, at the first Buyer’s Conference for the Asian Sub-Continent region. Advocating and negotiating for increased market access into the emerging global economies has been a passion, as well as eliminating the non-tariff trade barriers that exist in many established economies,” Wilkins said.
“The only reason I can do what I do is that I have a very marvelous wife who helps to keep things from falling apart while I’m away from home. She and my nephew, Christopher Neibert, are the backbone of our farming and business operation.”
Wilkins expects to have more time to be at home and more time for Delaware Farm Bureau.
He was presented DFB’s “ Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award” in December 2015. A past treasurer and past vice president of Kent County Farm Bureau, he became KCFB president in October. He had been president of the Young Farmers and Ranchers in the mid-1980s, and he and Donna were Young Farmer Achievement Award winners in 1988.
He said he hopes to have an event for all KCFB members, a picnic, barbecue or some other way to show appreciation to members, and at the same time, to try make more people aware of Farm Bureau.
Wilkins is still a member of the Mid-Atlantic Soybean Association. He said his goal now is “to help to mentor the next generation of leaders both in the soybean association and Farm Bureau.”
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