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Commentary: America trusts us because our farmers never waver

Issue Date: January 12, 2022
By Zippy Duvall
Zippy Duvall
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall addresses the organization’s 2022 convention, declaring, “The American farmer is one of the most trusted professions today.”
Photo/American Farm Bureau Federation

I see that the future is bright for agriculture as we work to get through this pandemic. I visited 26 states and Puerto Rico, and I bring the stories from your farms to our nation's leaders and lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

In Louisiana, I saw firsthand how regulations like Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, can impact farms. Farmers in Arizona made it clear how H-2A visa delays are hurting agriculture. The shocking realities of the border crisis became very real when I visited our southern border states. In Kansas, farmers weren't shy about sharing their concerns around livestock markets. And in Puerto Rico, the power of farm bill programs to strengthen farmers was on full display.

The American Farm Bureau team is sharing your stories on the Hill, with the administration and through many communications channels that reach far and wide.

Our theme this year is Growing Tomorrow, Together. Growing tomorrow requires taking on new challenges and embracing possibilities, because we believe each season can be better than the last. Growing tomorrow requires continued innovation to ensure we can feed a growing population while caring for our natural resources.

The American farmer is one of the most trusted professions today. That may not always feel true when you see negative headlines, but our polling shows that 87% of Americans trust farmers and ranchers.

And in that same spirit, Farm Bureau has your back. Over our 102-year history, Farm Bureau has become the leader we are today by adapting and working with every administration and every Congress. But what has never changed is how we stand tall for you. Adapting doesn't mean forgetting our roots. We remain grounded in our purpose, which strengthens us to make this time our time.

Two years ago, we saw the writing on the wall: major food companies making climate commitments with big implications for agriculture; Congress ramping up legislative proposals; and the public increasingly calling for climate action. We knew that if we weren't at the table, we would be on the table.

The American Farm Bureau co-founded two coalitions to lead the way. One was Farmers for a Sustainable Future. It highlighted our great achievements across America's farm and ranch land.

The second is the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. This historic alliance brought together agriculture, forestry, food and even environmental groups.

Together, we highlighted the great work being done on sustainability. We established principles and made policy proposals to advance voluntary, market-driven approaches.

The alliance recommendations have not only guided climate discussions in D.C., they are the foundation of legislation and USDA programs that respect farmers. I personally cannot recall another time when I've heard so many leaders on both sides of the aisle acknowledge U.S. agriculture's leadership on sustainability.

America's farmers and ranchers have enrolled 140 million acres in conservation programs. That's the size of New York and California combined.

We have tripled our use of renewable energy on the farm. And we are producing more with less while protecting our land, air and water.

Another part of Growing Tomorrow, Together is strengthening our rural communities through infrastructure improvements.

Thanks to our united voice, Congress passed—and the president signed—a bipartisan bill that will invest in our roads, bridges, ports and waterways.

We're also excited to see long-overdue attention to Western water infrastructure, which will ensure future production opportunities for farmers.

Infrastructure isn't just about roads and bridges anymore. It's also time for us to bridge the great digital divide.

Like many of you, I know this one from personal experience. When COVID hit, I resorted to Zoom meetings in my truck while the staff moved heaven and earth to get a stable signal at my farmhouse.

We are finally on our way to leveling the playing field for farmers, ranchers, rural hospitals, rural schools and all rural Americans with a historic investment in broadband.

Don't ever say that your one voice can't make a difference. Let me tell you: When you're part of the Farm Bureau family, you better believe it can.

The wider we open our doors to invite new people into this Farm Bureau family, the brighter that future is going to be. We need to represent all of agriculture, drawing in farmers from all backgrounds, crops, races and regions. Let's actively recruit and include new voices and perspectives.

Do not underestimate the power of your voice. America trusts us, and for good reason.

Through even the greatest challenges, we never waver in growing the safest, most sustainable food, fuel and fiber in the world. And Farm Bureau remains true to our purpose—to be that one united voice of agriculture.

The challenges we are facing today are getting so complex that it can be hard to wrap our arms around them, but let's commit to staying connected and working together to solve them. It will take all of us to do it.

It's still our time. Let's keep Growing Tomorrow, Together.

(Zippy Duvall, a third-generation farmer from Georgia, has served as president of the American Farm Bureau Federation since 2016. This column is adapted from his speech delivered Sunday at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Atlanta.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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